You Can Help Save The Lives Of Our Bears
By: Kate Rusch for the Bear Education Task Force
Did you know once a black bear enters a home or business, it may be euthanized? It’s a cold, hard fact. Bears are smart and adaptable. All it takes is one exposure to human or pet food, trash or bird feeders for a bear to learn and repeat this behavior. Bears are naturally shy creatures, but they can be a great danger to people when we allow them to become “problem bears,” and human safety will always take priority over the life of the bear. If a sow with cubs becomes a problem bear, her life and those of her cubs are at risk, and relocation is not an option.
Once a bear enters a home, it may be euthanized.
We’re incredibly lucky to share the valley with bears and other wildlife. It’s one of the things that makes the Estes Valley such a great place. It’s our responsibility to minimize conflicts with bears, so the Estes Valley can be a great and safe place for both humans and bears. Bear activity picks up each July, and this year we’ve seen lots of activity in outlying neighborhoods like Rockwood Estates, Little Valley, Windcliff and throughout the Highway 66 corridor. Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports 22 accounts of bears entering structures in the valley. That equates to a pretty average year, but it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.
It’s up to us to ensure the successful coexistence of bears and people. As a community, our long-term goal should be to restore all bears’ natural fear of humans, and restore their dependence on natural food sources alone. A few simple steps can ultimately help affect this change and reduce the likelihood of us creating problem bears.
If a bear is hanging around your home, business or other populated area, scare it away by yelling, making a racket with pots and pans, or using an air horn. If we are too passive or accommodating, we put their lives at risk. So, make its memory of the encounter a bad one.
Residential and commercial garbage can be an easy meal for bears. Keep it locked up, store it in a bear-resistant container, increase the pick-up schedule — whatever it takes to make it less accessible to bears.
Keep your car free of food, trash or other attractants, or you may end up paying a hefty price to repair windows, doors and interiors. This goes for your home and business, too. Close and lock ground-level windows and doors. Bears can quickly cause thousands of dollars in damage that your insurance company may not cover.
Take down bird feeders, especially if you live in an area where bears are active. This includes the edges of town and anywhere they commonly travel to reach other food sources. Flowers are a great replacement for hummingbird feeders.
Don’t forget to burn off and clean your barbeque grill after every use.
Keep pet food inside.
The Town is working to reduce the potential for conflicts in public spaces, testing new bear-resistant public trash container downtown and adjusting the trash collection schedule to remove the temptation from bears. And to maintain public safety, police officers are checking for compliance with trash ordinances. Inside town limits, or in the unincorporated valley, ignoring the laws can result in fines from law enforcement and wildlife officials.
News stories about bears entering homes and businesses may come with a humorous slant, but they indicate a serious underlying problem and are not something to be proud of. Let’s work together to be known as a bear-responsible community.
The community-led Bear Education Task Force offers a variety of programs and materials for Estes Valley businesses, residents and guests, children and adults. The task force has developed partnerships with community organizations and businesses, and prepared educational programs, a five-minute educational video, printed and electronic materials, hands-on children’s programs, and an interactive pledge and recognition program for bear-responsible businesses. Resources are available at www.estes.org/wildlife. Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs), business and service organizations, social clubs, teachers and businesses are encouraged to contact the task force to request a program or materials to help valley residents and visitors understand how simple it can be to avoid conflict with bears and other wildlife. Call 970-577-3701 for more information.
The Bear Education Task Force was formed in the fall of 2012 after community conversations identified education as one of the critical pathways for improving bear and human interactions in the Estes Valley. Core participants represent the community at large, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bears Are Us, Estes Valley Library, Waste Management, Association for Responsible Development, League of Women Voters, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park Police Department, Town of Estes Park staff and its Board of Trustees. For more information, visit www.estes.org/wildlife.
For bear questions or concerns, please contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 303-291-7227. For bear emergencies, call 9-1-1.