Team helps bears and humans coexist
With the end of hibernation season, Glenwood Springs residents may find some strangers padding around their neighborhood, senses alert for signs of unsecured garbage and fallen birdseed.Rest easy: They might not be bears.Bear Aware volunteers have completed training and are beginning to visit local neighborhoods about ways to minimize the temptations for the animals to visit residential areas.People might be seeing volunteers traipsing around the neighborhood for us, kind of doing that community-based education, Colorado Division of Wildlife district manager Sonia Marzec said.Five volunteers four from Glenwood will distribute literature to homes and report bear problems to Marzec.Jess Smith, who is one of the volunteers and also assistant Garfield County manager, said the team is trying to find out where bears are, what they are doing, and where the problems are.I think if we just sit back and people remain ignorant about bears, were headed for disaster, he said. Its just a matter of time.The more we can make people bear-savvy, the more we can avoid a real negative confrontation, and we can avoid destroying the bears. All its going to take is one real serious encounter between a bear and a person, and the publics reaction is just going to explode. Were going to have citizens against citizens as far as what we can do about bears, he said.Glenwoods bear problem began to come to a head last year. Police received about 140 bear calls, and some residents called for the city and DOW to do more about the problem, while others feared that a crackdown would result in bears being destroyed.Council responded with a new city ordinance that prohibits leaving trash out overnight unless it is in bear-resistant containers, and requires bird feeders to be suspended between trees during bear season.Meanwhile, the DOW has adopted a pilot program to respond more aggressively to bear problems in Glenwood Springs. Among other provisions, it provides for removing bears from designated safety zones including downtown and schools, and relocating them from neighborhoods where they dont stop causing problems after a week.Marzec said the biggest challenge shes facing this year is fears from residents that if they contact authorities, they will get ticketed for trash problems and bears will be killed. But residents will get warnings first if problems are found.Wed rather educate the public and try and eliminate the attractants to begin with before we start giving tickets, she said.As for the bears, the DOW needs to know early on if they are causing problems, so the agency can haze them back into the hills with pepper spray, rubber buckshot and other means. Otherwise, problems can grow to the point that officers have to trap and relocate bears, Marzec said.Thats what can lead to bears being killed. Those that are relocated once are tagged, and if they must be trapped again they are destroyed under DOW policy.Marzec said both she and Glenwood police have been receiving some bear calls so far this year, generally involving bears in yards and knocking over trash. No break-ins by bears into structures have been reported downtown.One occurred in No Name, and the DOW has set a trap there. It also placed a trap in west Glenwood after a bear broke into a locked shed holding trash, but the bear hasnt been caught.Stephanie Davis, who lives in the Canyon Creek area, recently photographed a bear that approached a glass door to her home, peered inside almost face-to-face with her and stood up and pressed on the door with a paw.I was shaking. You could see the noseprints (on the glass), she said. He hasnt done anything. He was just here. He hasnt tried to come in.She said she had a problem a few years ago with a bear getting into trash, but is careful with trash now.We dont want the bears destroyed. Its not like theyve done anything. My husband likes having them around, she said.Davis said she decided to contact the DOW after her recent encounter.When I got face to face with him, I said, Hmmm, I think I need to let them know hes here, she said. Its a little nerve-wracking when you see him right there.Marzec said shes hoping that with the help of Bear Aware volunteers, literature can be distributed to every home in the Glenwood area this year. Shes also having the information translated into Spanish.Marzec had 12 people interested in volunteering for the Bear Aware program, but many were from Eagle County. If the program succeeds locally, the agency may expand it to other areas later, she said.Shes still looking for more local volunteers. Anyone interested may contact her at 947-2920.Smith said he got involved as a way to give something back to the community. He said volunteers are asked to put in whatever time they can. He plans to get out a few evenings a week.Smith lives on Red Mountain and sometimes sees bears in his neighborhood.I dont bother them, they dont bother me, he said. I dont do things that are going to attract them or make them dependent on me.He said he manages his fruit trees so theyre not smorgasbords for bears.The bears are being bears, and peoples actions are what really are foolish and can lead to an encounter, he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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