Black bears around Durango are starting to wake up.
Bryan Peterson, director of Bear Smart Durango, said Sunday he’s already receiving reports of bears spotted around town.
Most of the reports are coming from outlying subdivisions, like Forest Lakes and Rafter J’s. But he’s also heard of a bear spotted at Miller Middle School, in north Durango, which was rummaging through the school’s unsecured trash. The other reports, for the most part, involved bears getting into bird feeders.
Peterson said the first bear sightings of the year are getting earlier and earlier, year over year. In the past, it used to be the norm to have an occasional bear sighting in April, he said.
Last year, the first bear spotted was on March 27, and it was the only bear sighting that month. This year, the first bear was spotted March 8, and more reports are coming in by the day. Peterson said Sunday there have been 7 reports so far this month.
“If an increasing warming of the climate in Colorado continues, it is expected for bears to shorten the duration of time spent in hibernation,” Peterson said. “Being out longer would likely expose bears to a greater potential, and increase of, human and bear conflict.”
After a record number of bears were euthanized last year, stricter measures are being taken in the community to reduce human-bear conflicts.
The city of Durango this spring is distributing 600 bear-resistant trash cans in the hopes of keeping bears out of garbage.
Peterson said it’s important to secure trash, as well as remove bird feeders or make them inaccessible to bears.
“Remove any foods from vehicles and keep doors and windows closed and locked,” a Bear Smart Durango press release said. “The same goes with any bear-accessible windows and doors at your home, including garages. Rural residents can use electric fencing to protect chickens, beehives, livestock and more.”