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Bears In Our Backyard

By: Kris Hazelton

Kris is the owner, editor of Estes Park News and is a Colorado Division of Wildlife, Bear Aware Volunteer

The Colorado Division of Wildlife would like to remind us that the bears are out and about all over the Estes Valley and they are hungry, opportunistic animals that will turn to some “easy fixes” when finding their meals.

Of late, there have been several bears in the area who have been making a bit of a nuisance of themselves, getting into people’s trash and birdfeeders, doing what bears do best, searching for food.

Most residents and visitors welcome the chance to glimpse a bear. Sometimes bears are attracted to areas used by people, becoming unwelcome visitors. Many people do not realize that by simply altering their behavior they can minimize the chance of unwanted property damage, close encounters with bears, and possibly even the death of the bear.

Black bears which we have here in Colorado, are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Bears primarily eat vegetation, supplementing their diet of grass, berries, nuts and seeds with an occasional meal of carrion (dead animals), insects, or any mammal they can catch, or dig up.

Bears are generally shy and usually avoid humans yet they are opportunistic and will search for human food supplies when natural foods are not available, or simply easier to get at.

Is your residence free of food odors that may attract a hungry bear’s attention? Garbage, bird food, pet food, gardens and outdoor grills are the most common bear invitations.

The majority of conflicts can be avoided. Here are some tips on preventing bear problems:

• Either put away or hang your bird feeders high off the ground. Hang bird seed, suet and hummingbird feeders on a wire between trees instead of on your deck or porch. Bring all bird feeders in at night. Clean up spilled seed below feeder stations. Keep your bird feeder from becoming a bear feeder.

• Keep garbage in airtight containers inside your garage or storage area until day of pickup. Double bagging your trash is also a good idea.

• Don’t let garbage pile up or develop strong odors that can attract bears. Place smelly food scraps in the freezer until garbage day.

• If you must leave your trash outdoors, invest in a bear proof trash can or make sure your trash cans have lids that can be secured.

• Don’t discard cooking grease in an open container. Collect it in a glass, plastic or metal container with a lid and allow to cool. When ready to dispose of it, transfer it to a plastic bag, seal the bag tightly and place it in the trash.

• If you have a compost pile, do not place meat or sweet food scraps in it.

• Feed pets indoors or feed only enough so that no food remains during the night and clean the pet food dishes thoroughly. If your dog or cat normally lives outside, bring them indoors at night.

• Clean up and/or store outdoor grills after use and clean up spilled or dripped grease from deck or patio area. Do not leave food cooking outside unattended. Bears have been known to snatch food right off the grill.

• It’s not only food items that attract bears. Do not leave scented products outside. Bears will sample anything that smells good, items such as suntan lotion, insect repellent, soap and candles.

• Never intentionally feed bears to attract them to your yard for viewing. Keep in mind that it is illegal to feed any big game animals in Colorado, including deer, elk, bear, lion, moose and bighorn sheep. It is also illegal to feed or attract coyotes and fox in urban areas.

Please remember the saying, A fed bear is a dead bear!

As cute and cuddly as they may appear, bears are wild animals. When bears are fed, they quickly learn “unbearlike” behaviors. Sadly, this often leads to the death of the bear. Once a bear comes into contact with human foods or garbage, they return again and again.

Wildlife managers that are called in to deal with a “problem” bear will try to discourage it by using pepper spray and/or firing rubber bullets or bean bags to drive it away. If these methods fail, killing the bear is usually the next course of action. Bears are only given one chance. Unfortunately, relocating bears is not an option anymore.

If you encounter a bear in your yard, encourage it to leave by banging on pots and pans or make other loud noises. (air horns work well.) As a last resort, throw stones or other small objects in the direction of the bear with the intent of driving it away, not hurting it. The more stressful a bear’s encounter with you is, the less likely it is to come back.

If you unexpectedly encounter a bear in your yard, walk, don’t run away. Move slowly and don’t make eye contact. If the bear has cubs, don’t get between a mother and her cubs or threaten the cubs in any way. Get to a place of safety and call the police who will dispatch the Colorado Division of Wildlife Manager Rick Spowart or 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

Remember, to change the behavior of bears, we must first change our own. Don’t wait until you have a problem to do something about it. It is our responsibility if we choose to live in bear country to learn how to live with bears.

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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