There have been a few reports of bears getting into homes and vehicles in the Estes Valley in the last several weeks. This time of year, bears are busy trying to fatten up for their winter hibernation and they need to consume 20,000 calories a day! Human-bear conflicts are a fact of life in Colorado, but with some simple actions, residents of bear country can help to significantly reduce those conflicts.

The biggest issue in conflict situations is the availability of human sources of food -- garbage, pet food, livestock food, compost piles, bird feeders, chicken pens, etc. Bears have a phenomenal sense of smell and can pick up odors of food sources from miles away.

Bears receive a big calorie reward if they get into something like pet food, or bird seed or leftover pizza, and once they get a taste they quickly become habituated to human food and conflicts start. When that happens, things usually don't go well for the bear.

Once black bears have discovered a food source they may defend it and can become dangerous. Those types of situations can be dangerous and it is undesirable to have wild, unpredictable animals in close proximity to people.

Bears will go to the areas with the best food availability, and it's best that they find their food in the wild. If food sources in town are limited, bears will likely spend more time in wild lands in their quest to fatten up.

Estes Valley residents play a major role in keeping bears wild, we can help by being conscientious and not leaving any types of food available to bears. Without the public's diligence in reducing human sources of food, we have limited success in avoiding and reducing conflicts.

Please, follow these tips to keep bears out of trouble and to reduce conflicts:

• Obtain a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. Check with local authorities or your trash service to determine what types can be used where you live. Keep garbage in a well-secured location; and only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.

• Clean garbage cans regularly to eliminate food odors. If you don't have secure storage, put food scraps and items that might become smelly into the freezer. Then put them in the trash on pick-up day.

• Don't leave pet food or feeding bowls outside.

• After you barbeque, make sure to clean your grill, each and every time.

• Attract birds naturally to your yard or garden with flowers and water features. For those who use bird feeders, suspend them high above the ground so that they're inaccessible to bears; clean up beneath them every day and bring them in at night,

• Tightly secure any compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.

• Clean-up thoroughly after picnics in the yard or on the deck. Don't allow food odors to linger.

• If you have fruit trees, pick fruit before it gets too ripe. Don't allow fruit to fall and rot on the ground.

• If you keep chickens or other small livestock, build a secure enclosure and bring the animals inside at night. Clean up pens regularly to reduce odors.

• Keep the bottom floor windows of your house, front and back doors and garage doors closed and locked when you're not at home. Lock car doors.

• Never intentionally feed bears or other wildlife. It's illegal and dangerous.

• When backcountry camping, use bear containers at campgrounds and when possible, lock food and trash in vehicles.

Do the right thing, please help keep our bears wild and alive! We thank you and the bears thank you too!

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