It’s that time of year… The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler, prompting our state’s black bear population to go into hyperphagia. This is when bears are searching for food in preparation for the long winter hibernation. The average bear will need to consume around 20,000 calories a day; often spending up to 20 hours a day on the move foraging for food. It’s this time of year we tend to see a rise in bear/human conflicts; when their drive for food can often override their fear of humans.
With our late May freeze and drought conditions, food sources above 7,000 ft are somewhat scarce. This may drive bears into town seeking out human food, trash and other food sources. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and can smell potential food sources from up to five miles away! It’s important for homeowners to understand attractants and bear-proof their homes and cars. Dirty grills, pet food, bird feeders and trash are the main attractants that bring bears into town. When camping it’s just as important to bear-proof your campsite. Be sure to use bear boxes and ensure vehicles are kept clean of attractants and locked. Food wrappers, air fresheners, and even chapstick or sunscreen can seem like a tasty snack to a hungry bear!
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has shared some advice to help homeowners bear-proof their living space:
- Keep garbage in a well-secured location.
- Only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.
- Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them free of food odors: ammonia is effective.
- Use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.
- Don’t leave pet food or stock feed outside.
- Bird feeders (both seed and nectar) are a major source of bear/human conflicts. Attract birds naturally with flowers and water baths. Do not hang bird feeders from April 15 to Nov. 15.
- Do not attract other wildlife by feeding them, such as deer, turkeys or small mammals.
- Don’t allow bears to become comfortable around your house. If you see one, yell at it, throw things at it, make noise to scare it off.
- Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.
- Clean the grill after each use.
- Clean-up thoroughly after picnics in the yard or on the deck.
- If you have fruit trees, don’t allow the fruit to rot on the ground.
- If you keep small livestock, keep animals in a fully covered enclosure. Construct electric fencing if possible. Don’t store livestock food outside, keep enclosures clean to minimize odors, hang rags soaked in ammonia and/or Pine-Sol around the enclosure.
- If you have beehives, install electric fencing where allowed.
- Talk to your neighbors and kids about being bear aware.
- Keep garage doors closed.
CPW has also shared tips for campers, car-owners, and travelers:
- Lock your doors when you’re away from home and at night.
- Keep the bottom floor windows of your house closed when you’re not at home.
- Do not keep food in your vehicle; roll up windows and lock the doors of your vehicles.
- When car-camping, secure all food and coolers in a locked vehicle.
- Keep a clean camp, whether you’re in a campground or in the backcountry.
- When camping in the backcountry, hang food 100 feet or more from the campsite; don’t bring any food into your tent.
- Cook food well away from your tent; wash dishes thoroughly.
It’s important to do our part in keeping ourselves, as well as the bears, safe and preventing human interactions. Learn more from CPW about how to bear proof your home or campsite here.
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