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Are we driving bears into the dark?

John Gardner
Vail, CO Colorado
Photo by Sharon Baruch-Mordo, CSUThis black bear is wearing a collar that tracks its movements. The animal is party of a study of bear behavior in urban areas.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” It’s been a rough year for black bears in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has been forced to kill more than five this summer from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, said Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the agency.

By researching urban black bear activity and behavior, specifically in and around Glenwood Springs and Aspen, Sharon Baruch-Mordo is hoping to reduce that number in future years.



“Bear and human interactions are increasing, and it’s becoming more of a problem,” Baruch-Mordo said. “By understanding what they are doing in town and what they are going after, then we can determine a better way to manage the problem.”

Baruch-Mordo is a graduate research assistant at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Over the past three years she’s participated in the five-year study on black bears in the Roaring Fork Valley.



Data is collected by Global Positioning System collars attached to the black bears that transmit data every 30 minutes and allows researchers to track how often bears are coming into town and what parts of town they are visiting.

Baruch-Mordo said she has seen some atypical behavior.

“It’s hard to tell before all the data is collected,” she said. “But we have seen more activity in town this year because of the lack of natural food selection.”



Other preliminary data showed bears traveling at greater distances in the early spring and at night. Typically, they tend to travel farther in the fall when they are preparing for hibernation, she said.

“Bears are typically active during the early morning and late afternoon hours,” she said. “The idea is that we are changing them to become more nocturnal because they are waiting until night, when people are less active, to come into town for alternative food sources.”

One of the bears Baruch-Mordo was tracking in the Glenwood area had to be killed when it returned to the area after being relocated in mid-June. Apparently some people were feeding and petting the bear when it returned.

“As much as we hate to destroy a bear that is part of the study, it doesn’t supersede the DOW’s black bear policy on nuisance” bears, Hampton said. “We don’t want to take risks. Our history shows bears that are habituated with trash are typically the ones to become more aggressive toward humans.”

Hampton said that there is a “great deal” of knowledge on black bear biology, but very little research has been done on urban black bear behavior to date.

“It’s cutting edge stuff,” Hampton said. “We are already learning a lot on the preliminary information coming in.”


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