The un-bear-able facts: What to do and how to prevent bears as hibernation comes to a close

A black bear sniffs a cooler left out in the wilderness.
Roaring Fork Valley Bear Coalition/Courtesy photo

With the summer season quickly approaching, human interactions with wildlife in Garfield County are sure to occur.

As bears come out of hibernation and find themselves in the mountainous trees of Roaring Fork Valley, here’s what you need to know about wildlife interaction safety for the 2023 summer.

Editor’s note: Some of the following information was taken from the Roaring Fork Valley Bear Coalition.

  1. Bear safety precautions:
    • Secure food and trash: Bears have a sharp sense of smell and can be attracted to food. Store all food, coolers and trash in bear-resistant containers or lock them in a vehicle. Avoid leaving any food or food-related items unattended.
    • Use bear-resistant camping equipment: When camping in the Roaring Fork Valley, use bear-resistant containers or hang food and scented items at least 10 feet off the ground and four feet from any vertical support. 
    • Be aware of bear signs: Learn to recognize signs of bear activity, such as tracks, claw marks or overturned rocks and logs. If you come across these signs, it may indicate the presence of bears in the area.
  2. Hiking and outdoor activities:
    • Travel in groups: When hiking or engaging in outdoor activities, it’s safer to travel in groups rather than alone. Bears are less likely to approach larger groups.
    • Make noise: While on the trail, make noise by talking and clapping. This alerts bears to your presence and reduces the chance of surprising them, which can lead to defensive behavior.
    • Carry bear spray: Carry it in an easily accessible location and know how to use it effectively. Bear spray can discourage a bear from approaching and provides a valuable means of self-defense. Familiarize yourself with the proper technique for using bear spray before heading out.
  3. Respecting bear habitat:
    • Be vigilant in bear habitat: Be very alert when hiking or camping in known bear habitats, such as wooded areas and along bodies of water. These are areas where bears are more likely to be present.
    • Maintain a safe distance: If you encounter a bear, give it space. Respect their territory and avoid approaching or disturbing them. 
    • Follow park regulations: If you’re in a national park or wildlife area, follow all posted regulations regarding bear encounters and closures. These regulations are in place to protect both visitors and bears.
  4. Keeping bears out of your backyard: 
    • Contact authorities: If a bear finds themselves in your backyard, be sure to call 911 to keep your yard, your pets and yourself in a safe situation.
    • Locking your trash bins: Be sure to lock all trash bins and refrain from leaving food outside. Once a bear locates food that is easily accessible, it will lose its fear of people and frequently return.
    • Keep the volume up: When indulging in outdoor activity, such as grilling or hanging out in the backyard, be sure to stay loud. Both noise and light discourage bears from getting close.
    • Clean up the smell: With bears’ impressive sense of smell, be sure to clean up any odors that may attract them. If worse comes to worse, spray deterrent that the bear will find unpleasant, such as ammonia or bleach.

With bears out and about for the coming months, these tips will help you avoid an ugly bear experience. Be sure to do your part to keep both the bear and yourself safe.

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