With bear activity picking up, here are some tips and resources for avoiding problems with bears.
Vehicles and garage doors
Reports of bears breaking into vehicles, sheds and garages have risen in recent years. With vehicles, bears quickly learn of potential food rewards from just one instance and will investigate other vehicles. Residents are reminded to never leave food or beverages in vehicles and keep doors and windows closed and locked.
Bears are powerful animals, so in lieu of costly property damage, consider storing human-food attractants in a bear-resistant container instead of inside structures. Keep garage doors and any bear-accessible windows and doors tightly closed whenever possible.
Report bear sightings
Many residents are hesitant to report bear sightings for fear of putting bears at risk. Bears have to be doing something (causing property damage or threatening public safety) to warrant being captured by wildlife officers. In most cases, bear sightings are not cause for management action to be taken. A form to report bear sightings is available on the Bear Smart Durango website, or you can call Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 247-0855.
However, wildlife managers need to be made aware of bears breaking into homes, structures or vehicles, damaging fruit trees, killing chickens, etc. Immediately call Colorado Parks and Wildlife, or 911 after hours, to report unwanted or potentially dangerous bear behavior.
Many residents feel that “problem” bears should simply be captured and transported elsewhere to live happily ever after. Romantic as that sounds, it typically isn’t the case. Relocation does work with some bears but has a low success rate, is very costly for wildlife agencies and typically doesn’t end well for bears – as many are killed returning to their home ranges. Finding places to take bears to is becoming increasingly difficult in our ever-expanding, human-dominated landscape.
Most important, moving bears fails to address why the bear was around to begin with. Instead of relying on someone else to solve human-bear conflicts, it is best to deal with why the bear is there by removing human-food attractants: securing trash, removing bird feeders and using electric fencing to protect chickens and fruit trees, for example.
Get a bear-resistant trash container
City and county residents are required to store trash in a bear-resistant trash container or secure structure. County residents can obtain residential bear-resistant trash containers from their waste hauler, at an additional cost. Kroegers Ace Hardware offers them as well. Some aren’t, so to avoid any confusion, confirm that the container has been indeed certified as being bear-resistant. City residents can obtain them for $4 extra a month by calling 375-5004.
Report bear and trash incidents
City and county ordinances addressing bears getting into trash are complaint-driven and require residents to report bear-in-trash incidents to be at all effective. County residents are asked to call Central Dispatch at 385-2900 and city residents can call Code Enforcement at 375-4930. Incidents, such as bears getting into trash, left unaddressed allow for the possibility of something more unfortunate happening.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bryan Peterson is director of Bear Smart Durango, formed in 2003 to educate residents about coexisting with bears and reduce the amount of human food available to bears. Visit www.bearsmartdurango.org or follow on Facebook.