Hungry bear raids chicken coop

Animas Valley resident suffers loss of 9 hens

Rob Watson’s father-in-law, John Abeyta, shows that only feathers remain of chickens that used to live in Watson’s coop at his home on County Road 203. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Rob Watson’s father-in-law, John Abeyta, shows that only feathers remain of chickens that used to live in Watson’s coop at his home on County Road 203.

Black bears need to eat 20,000 calories a day before going into hibernation this winter, and a couple of bears scored big in their search for food last week with a local man’s chickens.

Rob Watson woke up Friday to find all but one of his 10 hens dead and the outdoor enclosure destroyed after a bear climbed on top of the enclosure and collapsed the fence. It – or they – then were able to reach the chickens through a small flip door the chickens used to access the outside.

Watson said he has seen a mother with two cubs, as well as a large male bear wandering his neighborhood on County Road 203 about two miles south Trimble Lane.

“I think it was the mama bear. I don’t think the cubs could have caused that much damage,” Watson said. “We’ve been doing this for the past three or four years and never had this problem before.”

Bears have been especially prevalent in populated areas this year because of a scarcity of natural food in the high country.

Watson said this was the second time bears have gotten to his chickens. The first time was around Labor Day weekend. Three chickens were killed, two of which belonged to Watson’s 8-year-old son.

“My son was particularly distraught,” he said. “He bought them with his own money and took care of them.”

Watson bought the hens as chicks, and they had just started laying eggs.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will pay market price for livestock that is killed by wildlife after investigating the enclosure the animals were kept in, but it needs to be reported immediately, said Joe Lewandowski, spokesman for agency.

The department will give recommendations to better protect the animals after the first time they are lost to predators, Lewandowski said. He urges livestock owners to take all small animals inside at night and put them in a secured enclosure.

“We want people to have a good experience with their chickens, but in a place like Durango, you have to protect them from wildlife,” Lewandowski said.

jdahl@durangoherald.com

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