It’s bear sighting season in the Colorado high country | VailDaily.com

It’s bear sighting season in the Colorado high country

As bear sightings increase, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is stepping up its education campaign

EAGLE COUNTY — As we turn the corner into late summer and early fall, it’s bear sighting season in Eagle County.

Last week, the Vail Daily reported on a bear breaking through an EagleVail garage to gain access to some garbage and ran a series of photos from reader Kellie Mckenzie of a bear sighting in her front lawn near the Chamonix neighborhood. When we reached out to readers to share their bear stories through the Eagle County Classifieds Facebook page, we received 85 responses.

Here’s a sampling of those local bear tales:

 “Did yoga at base of Beaver Creek two Wednesday‘s ago. A bear lumbered across the mountain while we were in downward dog. No incidents but a lot of happy people getting to safely see a bear meandering,” Nichole Lucido wrote.

“Here at the (Eagle County) landfill we have a little brown bear that runs all over,” offered Lisa McKenzie. ” It peeked its head up over my front window while I was on the phone. We both looked at each other and scared the crap out of both of us.”

“Huge black bear spotted last week on the railroad tracks in Avon near Avon Elementary. Also different small black bear ran through the crowd walking down East Beaver Creek Blvd on their way to the fireworks show on July 3, same area,” wrote Bridgett McClain.

“There’s a resident bear where I work in West Vail behind Hotel Talisa. He knows how to get into the newer trash cans and routinely comes by to check ours out,” wrote Kimberly Lynn. “He’s around earlier in the evening than one would expect too. Spotted him one day sitting by the cans like Pooh Bear, just hanging out. He’s been paintballed and bear sprayed, not ideal. I wish he could just be left alone in his habitat. But he is very brazen. Even after being chased off, he goes up to the top of the hill and peeks over until everyone’s gone. We’ve also seen his muddy paw swipes on the door, so he was testing the door.”

“Mom ripped the bear-proof lid from our can to get the cubs some smelly delicacies in Eagle,” wrote Jodi Lindsay Christie.

“I have a bear freeway in my back yard, I live in EagleVail butted against the forest so it’s a normal and very natural occurrence,” wrote Paul Wade.

Along with sharing stories, respondents shared advice — reminding neighbors to put their trash cans inside and to use bear-resistant trash containers. James Jim Gonzales urged us to remind readers that bear problems are “mostly a people problem.”

Joy Ariel noted that where there are berries, there will be bears.

“This is the first year serviceberries, chokecherries and loads of wild berries to feed Ursus americanus abound. In the past three years, it’s been so dry the berries didn’t fruit, and those that did were diseased with aphids and blight.”

Bear aware

As bear sightings increase, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is stepping up its education campaign, reminding everyone that it is crucial to bearproof your property and cars when living in or traveling to bear country this summer. 

“Black bears are curious and smart animals, always on the lookout for a meal that requires the least amount of effort,” reads the latest press release from CPW. “Cars, garages, and houses unfortunately often provide the meal a bear is looking for with easily accessible human food, garbage, pet food and other attractants available. When people allow bears access to these attractants, a bear’s instinctive drive to eat can overcome its fear of humans.”

To help keep bears wild, CPW noted it is important that those living and recreating in bear country bear-proof their homes and properties, including cars and campers.

“Don’t make it easy and appealing for bears to visit your property, and you’ll help prevent conflicts between humans and bears,” states the CPW release. 

“Bear-proofing your property is essential during the summer months as bears are actively foraging for food, especially as fall approaches. People can prevent conflicts with bears and other wildlife, and we really need everyone to follow the proper precautions to help keep your property, your neighborhood, and our bear population safe,” said J Wenum, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “In the summer bears typically forage for insects, leaves, and flowers of broad-leafed plants but all it takes is one careless person to encourage a bear to get into a neighbor’s home, car or trash can.”

Properly bearproofing your home may mean taking several of the recommended steps.

Keep Bears Out

  • Close and lock all bear-accessible windows and doors when you leave the house, and at night before you go to bed.
  • Install sturdy grates or bars on windows if you must leave them open.
  • Keep car doors and windows closed and locked if you park outside. Make sure there’s nothing with an odor in your vehicle, including candy, gum, air fresheners, trash, lotions and lip balms.
  • Close and lock garage doors and windows at night and when you’re not home; garage doors should be down if you are home but not outside.
  • Install extra-sturdy doors if you have a freezer, refrigerator, pet food, birdseed, or other attractants stored in your garage.
  • Remove any tree limbs that might provide access to upper-level decks and windows.
  • Replace exterior lever-style door handles with good quality round door knobs that bears can’t pull or push open.

Get Rid of Attractants

  • Don’t leave trash out overnight unless it’s in a bear-proof enclosure or container. Be sure to research all local ordinances and regulations when vacationing.
  • Don’t store food of any kind in an unlocked garage, flimsy shed or on or under your deck.
  • Don’t leave anything with an odor outside, near open windows or in your vehicle, even if you’re home. That includes scented candles, air fresheners, lip balms and lotions.
  • Only feed birds when bears are hibernating. Birds have plenty of natural foods this time of year.

Teach bears they’re not welcome

  • If a bear comes close to your home, scare it away. Loud noises like a firm yell, clapping your hands, banging on pots and pans or blowing an air horn sends most bears running.
  • Utilize electric fencing, unwelcome mats and scent deterrents like ammonia to teach bears that your property is not bear-friendly.
  • If a bear enters your home, open doors and windows and ensure it can leave the same way it got in. Don’t approach the bear or block escape routes.
  • Never approach a bear. If a bear won’t leave your area, call your local CPW office. If a bear presents an immediate threat to human safety, call 911.

“Adjusting your habits to living with wildlife takes a little effort at first, but over time it becomes a better way to live. When you keep your property bear-proof, you’re making your homes and neighborhoods a safer place for yourself and for bears. These actions will also help lessen conflicts with other wildlife such as skunks, raccoons, and ravens,” Wenum said. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has several resources available that can help you find the right methods for protecting your home and property while bears are active. For additional information, see the Living with Bears page or visit cpw.state.co.us.