This was a good year for bears to forage in the wild, and that helped minimize conflicts between our furry neighbors and Durango residents, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This is the fourth summer of a six-year study that is examining bear behavior and population near towns, said Heather Johnson, a biologist with CPW.
This summer, researchers captured 106 bears within six miles of downtown Durango. Of these bears, 26 of them had never been captured before.
It was a relatively slow season for bear captures because food was widely available in the wild, Johnson said.
“They weren’t that motivated to come into our traps,” she said.
By comparison, during 2012, which was peak season, researchers captured 180 bears, and 86 had never been trapped before according to CPW data.
Bear Smart, an educational nonprofit, reported an average year for bear sightings and incidents.
“Bears were still causing trouble,” said Executive Director Bryan Peterson.
As compared with previous months, bear reports have picked up in October, he said.
This year, Bear Smart partnered with CPW to distribute 20 bear-proof garbage cans in Durango West I.
It was difficult to gauge the success of the program this year because overall bear-human incidents are down in that neighborhood, Peterson said.
As a part of CPW research, Johnson is evaluating the effectiveness of bear-proof garbage cans over time to see how much they help minimize bear-human incidents.
In 2013, the agency distributed 1,100 cans across two neighborhoods with the help of the city, and so far, the general response from residents has been positive, Johnson said.
To evaluate population trends, the researchers have also fitted female bears with GPS collars and will visit their dens each winter.
Over the summer, the researchers fitted nine new female bears with GPS collars, for a total of 40 collared bears. Johnson and her team visit dens to monitor cub survival.
“We expect the bears will be in really good shape,” she said.