Letter: Killing more bears is the wrong approach to mitigate human-bear conflict
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has drafted a “Bear Management Plan,” of which the primary goal is to manage human-bear conflicts. CPW recommends Alternative 2 which increases the harvested number of bears from 70-122 to 122-174. That’s a 74% increase at the threshold and over 40% at the top.
Killing more bears isn’t an effective means of reducing conflict. In 2011, CPW initiated a six-year study led by Dr. Heather Johnson to address human-black bear conflicts that produced reliable evidence-based data on how to mitigate conflict. The USDA described the project and results this way: “… National Wildlife Research Center researchers partnered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to evaluate whether the use of bear-resistant trash containers in Durango, Colorado, could reduce bear-human conflicts. The town was divided into two treatment and two control areas for comparison. Residents in the treatment areas received bear-resistant containers free of charge, while residents in the control areas continued to use their own trash containers. Trash-related conflicts were 60% lower and compliance with local wildlife ordinances increased by 39% in the areas with bear-resistance containers. Researchers recommend that cities within or adjacent to bear habitat consider bear-proofing measures, such as providing residents with bear-resistant trash containers, implementing bear-proofing ordinances or regulations, and increasing the enforcement of existing regulations.”
The town of Vail has seen a significant reduction in human-bear conflicts after implementing the above recommendations. We know what works — why isn’t that the proposed recommendation? I empathize with CPW and share their interest in reducing conflict. How about a win-win solution: Work with towns, the county and trash haulers to install bear-resistant trash containers and follow the recommendations above to mitigate conflict. Please submit comments on the plan By Nov. 10 supporting Alternative 1 — maintain current harvest levels. Next contact your local officials and let them know you support bear-resistant trash containers.
The best way to reduce conflict between humans and black bears is to eliminate trash as an option for a hungry bear.