The Colorado Division of Wildlife has started a five-year study in Southwest Colorado to learn about black bear behavior and the ursines relationship with humans.
The DOW is calling it the first study of its kind in Southwest Colorado and one of the most comprehensive studies to date on bear-human conflicts.
The goals are to learn how bears function in populated areas, how to reduce run-ins with bears and how to better determine bear numbers, agency spokesman Joe Lewandowski said Tuesday.
Researchers chose the Durango area for the current study because it is prime bear habitat adjacent to urban areas.
Were taking two approaches to gather information, Lewandowski said. The methods complement each other.
Bears caught in cage traps will be fitted with Global Positioning System collars to track their movement, Lewandowski said.
Signals will be received four times a day for each bear.
Researchers hope to catch 50 female bears to tag. Male bears will be marked for future identification but wont be fitted with collars.
In the other method, hair-snare traps three-sided wire enclosures will snag hair when bears rub against the wires.
Both types of traps lure bears with bait such as doughnuts, fish or meat, Lewandowski said. The hair samples and genetic markers taken from trapped bears will identify individual animals, he said.
The cage traps and hair snares are being placed on public and private property, including within Durango city limits, Lewandowski said. The network extends east of Bayfield and into the Animas Valley.
Theyre being placed away from trails or places that people walk, Lewandowski said. But if someone should stumble onto a hair snare or cage trap, theyre advised to leave at once.
The telemetry collars will locate bears and allow researchers to go into dens in the winter to count cubs, Lewandowski said.
In the next year or so, researchers will distribute bear-proof garbage cans to see what effect it has on bear movement.
We want to determine bear population, their movements and their use of the city, Lewandowski said.
Six to eight researchers will be involved, depending on the time of year, Lewandowski said.
In recent years, emboldened bears are increasingly raiding garbage cans and even entering houses in search of easily available victuals.
We work hard to reduce bear-human conflicts, Patt Dorsey, the Division of Wildlifes area wildlife manager in Durango, said Tuesday. We use educated guesses and trial and error.
Durango is a great place to study bears because of their numbers, Dorsey said. We can learn more faster.
Although the study will take place in Southwest Colorado, the information gathered can be applied statewide, Dorsey said.
The study follows a recent one the Division of Wildlife did on urban bears and their habits around Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
Lewandowski said if residents have problems with bears they should contact his agency or city code-enforcement officers.
Bears, collared or not, that cause problems will be relocated or put down, Lewandowski said.