Eagle County bears emerge after long winter nap | VailDaily.com

Eagle County bears emerge after long winter nap

A black bear takes a stroll through a Vail neighborhood.
Daily file photo |

Bear Calorie Counter

Why do bears come to populated areas in search of food? Consider the following calorie counter:

Bird seed (7 pounds) = 12,180 calories

Dog Food (25 pounds) = 42,425 calories

Peanut Butter (28 oz.) = 4,750 calories

Shortening (3 pounds) = 12,430 calories

Berries (1 pound) = 2,000 calories

Courtesy Living With Wildlife/Bears — cpw.state.co.us

EAGLE COUNTY — It’s springtime in the Rockies and as mountain meadows begin to turn green it starts to look like everything is waking up after a long winter’s rest.

That includes the valley’s ursine residents.

Local bears are venturing out of their dens following their winter hibernation and that means its time for humans to take a bit of extra care.

“The first week or two out of the den, they are wandering around to get their organs working again,” said Craig Wescoatt, of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Left to their own devices, bears will start their post-hibernation diet by munching on spring grasses. That’s not to say they aren’t really hungry. Bears use up their energy stores during the winter months and nursing mother bears, in particular, need to chow down.

“They aren’t as active when they first come out in the spring,” Wescoatt said. “But if bears are active, they are going back to their memories of where to look for food sources. If there are good food sources available nearby they will go back to those.”

Wescoatt noted the first bear report of the season came during the third week of February. The reports will now continue until next winter, reaching a crescendo in the fall when the animals start feeding heavily in preparation for hibernation. But starting now, its time to practice some basic bear aware techniques to avoid bad human-bear interactions.

Bear Country

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife website notes that black bears have lived in the foothills and forests of Colorado since long before the pioneers arrived.

“Today black bears are trying to share space with an ever-growing human population. With many more people living and playing in bear country, human-bear encounters are on the rise,” notes the CPW website. “Black bears are curious, smart and very adaptable. They’re not fussy and will eat just about anything with calories. Bears want to get the most energy they can with the least amount of effort.”

“They are definitely looking for calories right now and the easiest sources are trash cans,” Wescoatt said.

Garbage kills bears

The CPW noted that bears that get too comfortable around people can destroy property or even become a threat to human safety. Habituated bears must often be destroyed. The state has what it calls a “two-strike” policy, in which a bear foraging in human habit is moved once, then destroyed. No one wants that to happen.

“Please don’t let bears die needlessly. Do your part to bear-proof your home and property, and help keep bears alive and wild,” pleads the CPW Garbage Kills Bears campaign.

In simple terms, store garbage cans inside or firmly secure bear-proof containers. Don’t leave pet food outside to attract hungry bears.

“Also, be a little more careful about barbecues and bird feeders,” Wescoatt said.

In short, Wescoatt advised humans to be aware that they live in bear country and to act accordingly to secure food sources.

“You just have to use common sense,” he said.

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