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Colorado’s bears about to wake up

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” By the time a bear has its paws on the doorsteps of your house it’s too late to do anything about it, says Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.

This is the time of year again when the fuzzy neighbors are waking from a long hibernation period and are looking for food. Aspen has already seen one bear around town during March. It’s still a little early for activity, but April is the month when the bears begin to thaw from the winter.

“This is kind of when they start to come out,” Hampton said. “We would really expect over the next month to see more bear activity.”

However, the much talked about snowpack this year could leave the bears in hibernation for a little longer, and will provide the bushes that provide the bears with berries with much-needed moisture.

“If we get a nice, steady warm-up this spring, that is what we are hoping for,” Hampton said. “It will provide more moisture, and that is what we really need.”

Last year was one of the worst in history for incidents with bears, not only in Garfield County but the entire state.

“2007 was tough,” Hampton said. “Most bear situations involved bears being aggressive toward people, bears breaking into houses, situations like that.”

The Division of Wildlife put down 63 bears across the state in 2007, a record year. Seven of those bears were in Garfield County, and another 57 bears in Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties were relocated to more desolate habitat.

“Last year was probably the toughest year we’ve ever faced in dealing with bears,” Hampton said.

A late freeze on June 17, followed by extremely dry spring and summer seasons, left bears with very little natural food sources. That increased the number of incidents of bears searching for alternative food sources. Among the most popular places to look for alternative food sources: the trash can.

“If it’s available, they will go for it,” Hampton said. “There are a lot of simple things people can do that make a difference. The first is trash. People need to remember to not put trash cans out the night before.”

Bears are more active in the evening and early nighttime hours, as well as early morning, according to Hampton. Taking the trash out in the morning is one of those points made every year, but people always seem to forget.

Hampton also listed things like cleaning trash cans on occasion with a mixture of bleach and water to deter bears from looking in the cans for food. Also, refrain from feeding pets outside, pet food will also attract hungry bears, as well as other animals like mountain lions and bobcats.

Cleaning barbecue grills and storing them in a garage or a storage shed, keeping bird feeders (seed or liquid) at least 10 feet off the ground and at least 10 feet from anything a bear can climb, and keeping compost piles in a secure area or away from housing will help keep bears away from a house.

“If people don’t do that then bears will start to hang around, then they start breaking into homes and becoming more of a nuisance,” Hampton said. “That’s when we have to intervene.”


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