DOW – Stow Away Any Bear Attractants
By: Kris Hazelton
The past few weeks two young cinnamon colored yearling bears have been seen in and around the Fall River area getting into trash cans, dumpsters, bird feeders, grills and pet food bowls for a quick and easy meal.
According to Rick Spowart, Division of Wildlife Manager, “Unless people change their habits, these bears are doomed to die a tragic death!”
Spowart and local Bear Aware volunteers have been extremely busy, following these young bears around, trying to give them a negative human experience and teach them that they should not be seeking food around human sources.
Shocking as it sounds, simple human foods like sunflower seeds in a birdfeeder, peaches on your windowsill and trash in your trash can and do kill bears every year.
Why? Because once a bear finds these easy sources of food, they can become conditioned almost immediately to favor them over the more difficult to find and less calorie laden natural bear foods such as clover and grasses, ants and grubs, and wild berries.
Spowart hates the thought that he may have to put either or both of these bears down, if residents and business owners cannot follow a few simple rules, because a bear seeking human foods is certain to come in conflict sooner or later with people and that can be a very dangerous situation.
We need to change our behaviors so we can prevent the death of these beautiful animals. Moving the bears is not an option. According to Spowart, “Capturing and removing bears to new areas has a history of mixed success. I’ve only had one successful bear move, all the others have resulted in the death of the bear.”
Training bears to go back to natural food sources by using tazers, cracker shells and bean bag rounds to convince a bear to move off and stay away from areas used by humans is also a time consuming and trying situation but that is what has to be done at this point to try to convince the bears to move back into the wild.
However, it is useless to move or retrain bears only to have them relearn their dangerous habits because nearby residents fail to eliminate access to bear attractants.
The most effective way to save our bears is to prevent them from obtaining any human foods or garbage in the first place. It is that simple, and that difficult. “If every individual does their part to prevent a bear from having easy access to human foods, our bear conflict problem would be virtually solved. If these bears are going to live, we need to take away these attractants!” said Spowart.
Barbecue Grills- Grills with food and grease attract bears. Keep grills clean after each use and store them in a secure location. Attend to food as it cooks outdoors, and when it is done promptly remove anything that would attract a bear including coolers, utensils, leftovers and used paper plates and cups.
Pets and Pet Food-Pet food and food bowls should not be filled and left out overnight, or left unattended. Feed pets indoors. Especially avoid feeding pets outside at dawn or dusk when bears are most active. Store pet food in a safe, secured area or bear-proof container.
Vehicles-Don’t leave food or garbage in the passenger compartment of a vehicle or the back of a pick-up truck as bears can pry open the windows and doors to access even traces of food on old paper plates or drops of soda pop in cans or used cups.
Human Garbage-Human garbage is a primary bear attractant. Garbage left out over night has a 70 percent chance of attracting a bear. Garbage put out in the morning of trash pick-up has only a two percent chance of attracting a bear. Trash should be stored during the week in a bear-proof location. Freeze particularly smelly items, and keep your trash container clean.
Birdfeeders-Avoid birdfeeders from now through November. Birds don’t need supplemental feed at this time, and birdseed is irresistible to bears. When using birdseed, store it in a bear-proof container in a secure location. Hummingbird feeders are especially attractive to bears. Seeds and sweetened liquids are high in calories.
Remember this-A fed bear is a dead bear.
For more information or if you have a bear problem, please call Division of Wildlife Manager Rick Spowart at the police station at 586-4000, or you may contact DOW Bear Aware Volunteers in our area:
Jayne Zmijewski at 970-586-9427
Jim Boyd at 970-586-3341 ext. 1003 or 481-4279 or 586-2407 or
Kris & Gary Hazelton at 970-231-2635
In case of potentially dangerous situations, please call the Estes Park Police Dispatch number at 586-4000 or 911 in an emergency, who can contact police and a CDOW Wildlife Manager in the area.