Bear with it

Susan Werner

Yesterday was the last day of what Gov. Bill Owens declared “Colorado Bear Awareness Week.” So why all the attention on bears?

There are between 8,000 and 12,000 black bears living in our state, primarily west of the I-25 corridor. In our quest for the perfect life, we have made the choice to live in traditional black bear habitat.

The oak brush-aspen community provides abundant natural food sources for these creatures. Take a look outside your window!

Emotions run high during encounters with black bears. For example, I recently answered the phone and had a woman demand that we trap a “vicious” black bear. When I asked what she had seen to indicate that this particular bear was aggressive, she told me that it had walked through her tulips and broken several of them. On the other hand, some are reluctant to call because they fear that the bear will quickly be destroyed for its mere presence.

Division of Wildlife officers are committed to the protection of all species of wildlife in the state, including black bears. While in the past, it was routine procedure to trap a bear the instant it showed up in a community, philosophies have changed with the changed landscape. No longer are there unlimited places to move bears that have learned to live around people. Additionally, moving bears did not address the underlying issue.

The DOW is now focusing on addressing the problem, the proliferation of food in our communities. Bears are intelligent and adaptable. Research indicates that if a bear finds food once in a particular place, it will return year after year to this source. Combining this ability to recall good food sources with an incredibly sensitive sense of smell, is it any wonder that black bears quickly learn that houses mean food?

Your trash, your bird feeders and your barbecues all send olfactory signals to bears in search of their next meal. This learned behavior is difficult to change since almost every time a bear encounters one of our homes it finds something good to eat. Eventually, these bears become habituated to humans, which unfortunately frequently leads to their deaths.

Each of us has a responsibility to make living with bears a priority in our lives. Store your trash inside of a building, move bird feeders inside every night and thoroughly clean barbecues.

Think like a bear. Is there something around the outside of your home that would be good to eat?

For additional information on living with bears, to report sightings or for information on where you can obtain bear-proof trash containers, contact the DOW at 870-2197.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.