Scientists want bears to eat bear food | VailDaily.com

Scientists want bears to eat bear food

Scott Condon

Aspen Times photoScientists are tracking bears in the Rocky Mountains to see how they can be discouraged from raiding homes and garbage cans for food.

ASPEN – A female black bear assigned the number 919 is providing state and federal wildlife researchers with hope that bruins would rather roam wild lands for food than rummage in Dumpsters and homes. The adult female is supplying scientists with the initial data in a five-year study designed to learn more about the behavior of black bears and, specifically, to learn about bears involved in conflicts with humans.Bear 919 was trapped July 10 at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, tranquilized and fitted with a collar that uses global positioning system satellites to track travel.

For the next two weeks the bear stayed mostly within the city limits. The sow sometimes wandered to the outskirts of town, but she never left civilization.But starting the bear left town July 25, and spent her time almost exclusively on Smuggler Mountain, venturing almost to Warren Lakes, high up on the slope. She stayed out of town until researchers with Colorado State University, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently triggered a mechanism that blows the collar off the bruin so it can be recovered.It’s probably no coincidence that the bear’s departure from town coincided with the Rocky Mountain summer monsoon and the ripening of natural foods in the forest.

“When the chokecherries and serviceberries came on, that bear wasn’t spending any time in town,” said John Broderich, a terrestrial biologist with the state wildlife division.Researchers want to study what bears are doing while in Aspen and why they leave. Right now, it’s just a theory that she was finding human sources of food and that she left when natural foods ripened, Broderich said.Six bears were trapped and fitted with collars this year – five in Aspen and one in Glenwood Springs. The collars collect data for a maximum of 200 days before the batteries give out.Stewart Breck, a researcher with the federal Animal and Plant Inspection Service, said the study could be used to determine if efforts to scare bears away from civilization are effective. For example, if it’s known that a collared bear was shot with rubber buckshot after breaking into a house, researchers will be able to track the bear and see if it eventually returns to the house, if it picks another residence or stays in the woods.

The initial field research, headed by Colorado State University graduate student Sharon Baruch-Mordo, also indicated that some bears that become addicted to human food sources may be unable to kick their addiction. In those cases, they are doomed.Vail, Colorado