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Bears Are Opportunistic Feeders Take Precautions To Avoid Conflicts

By: Kris Hazelton

CDOW Bear Aware Volunteer

The bears are hungry in and around Estes Park and the Division of Wildlife is reminding residents and visitors to always be bear aware.

Because they are large omnivores, bears are nearly always on a search for food. Wild foods are essential for bears-berries, insects, plants and carrion. But when people fail to store garbage, pet food or bird feeders properly, bears will find those easy food sources and cause conflicts in residential and business areas.

Bears that become habituated to human food sources can be dangerous and often must be euthanized. It’s up to us to make sure bears don’t find our homes and vehicles as an easy food find.

Lately, we have been receiving reports of bears wandering into homes and getting into refrigerators or cabinets in search of food. DOW personnel and the DOW Bear Aware volunteers in town are urging residents that despite the hot weather, please do not leave your doors or lower windows open. An open door or window virtually invites a bear into your home and when inside this can be a dangerous and very messy situation.

As residents who live in bear county, these simple precautions can reduce or eliminate your chances of creating conflicts with bears:

• Keep garbage in a secure building or a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.

• If you don’t have a place to store garbage, invest in a bear-resistant trash container available at True Value Hardware here in town.

• Place smelly food scraps in the freezer until garbage day.

• Rinse out all cans, bottles and jars so that they are free of food and odors before putting them out for recycling or pick-up.

• Put out garbage cans only on the morning of pick-up. Do not put out garbage the night before.

• Wash garbage cans regularly with ammonia to eliminate food odors.

• Don’t leave pet food or pet dishes outside.

• Bird feeders are a major cause of wildlife conflicts. Besides bears, feeders may also attract small mammals, deer and mountain lions. Birds do not need to be fed during the summer. As an alternative to feeders, attract birds naturally by hanging flower baskets, putting out a bird bath or planting a variety of flowers. Use bird feeders only from November until the end of March when bears are hibernating.

• If bears get into bird feeders, take the feeders down immediately and don’t put them back up.

• Pick ripe fruit from trees and off the ground.

• Clean outdoor grills after each use; the smell of grease can attract bears.

• Never intentionally feed bears.

• Close and lock lower floor windows and doors of your house.

• Clean up thoroughly after outdoor parties.

• Don’t leave food in your car, lock car doors. Bears are smart and many have learned to open car doors.

• When camping, store food and garbage inside a locked vehicle. Keep the campsite clean. Don’t eat in the tent. In the backcountry, hang your food at least 10 feet high and 10 feet away from anything a bear can climb.

• Bears are not naturally aggressive toward people and prefer to avoid contact. If you see a bear in your neighborhood make it feel unwelcome: yell at it, throw sticks and rocks at it. But never approach a bear.

Remember this: “a fed bear is a dead bear.” Making food available to bears teaches them to associate humans with food — and that’s the start of conflict.

In case of potentially dangerous situations, please call the Estes Park Police Dispatch number at 586-4000 who can contact a CDOW Wildlife Manager in the area.

To report bear problems, contact a DOW Bear Aware Volunteer Jim Boyd at 970-586-3341 ext. 1003 or 481-4279 or 586-2407

Jayne Zmijewski at 970-586-9427 or

Kris & Gary Hazelton at 970-231-2635

To learn more about living with bears, go to the DOW’s web site:

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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