Colorado Bears Entering Urban Areas

Durango Herald, Bear Hunting Magazine
This Bear Was In A Tree Behind A Condominium

An unusually large number of black bears seem to be making the rounds of inhabited areas this year, according to observers who pay attention to such migrations.

"We're getting a tremendous number of bear calls," said Patt Dorsey, the Colorado Division of Wildlife area manager in Durango. "I can't figure out why, because there was decent food at higher elevations."

Dorsey said that her agency received five to seven calls a week about bears last year. This year, there are at least 20 calls a week, she said.

Bryan Peterson, the director of Bear Smart Durango, a program to educate people about living in bear country, also has received more calls about wayward bears than in recent years.

"It was a good natural-food spring for them, so I'm puzzled seeing them down low," Peterson said. "Maybe the second week in August when they're feeding on acorns and berries, but now they should be higher in the mountains."

Peterson said that more than 80 bear sightings reported in and around Durango in the week ending July 1 could indicate that more bears have found easy pickings - unsecured food sources - in human habitat or that more people are reporting bears. The sightings, which could involve the same animal reported several times by the same person or by several people, were reported to the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Peterson's Bear Smart Durango.

The DOW trapped a bear recently that was hanging out along the upper reaches of East Third Avenue, Dorsey said. Bears aren't trapped just for just their presence, but a potentially troublesome bear gets an ear tag and is moved to a remote area, Dorsey said. A second offense brings a death sentence for the bear.

"He was spending his whole life in town," Dorsey said. "Putting down a bear is the hardest job for a Division of Wildlife officer. The second-strike rule was a compromise."

People are failing to follow the message that they shouldn't feed bears, Peterson and Dorsey said. The feeding isn't deliberate, but putting out the garbage the night before pickup, setting out inadequately secured bins or leaving bird feeders and barbecue grills in the open amounts to feeding them.

It doesn't require much temptation to bring bears around, Peterson said. Unsecured food sources left within easy reach are easily knocked off, and they provide more calories than natural food, Peterson said.

"A 7-pound tube of bird seed contains 11,000 calories," Peterson said. "Bears aren't dumb. They go for the easy things."

Dorsey said bears are doing what comes naturally.

"You don't spank a kid for taking a candy bar left on the table," Dorsey said. "You put the candy out of reach or out of sight."

Bears have long memories, and because cubs stay with their moms for two summers, they learn all the tricks of finding easy food, Dorsey said. If garbage is secured, bears will leave the area, she said.

"We really need people to help," Dorsey said. "People have to do their part."

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