Why is Colorado's bear population on the rise?

DENVER- As the human population continues to grow in Colorado so does the black bear population. Now Colorado Parks and Wildlife will study why that is and what can be done to better co-exist with the animals.

The state estimates the bear population at about 19,000, up from 12,000 in the early 2000's. That's a very rough estimate as bears are tough to track.

State Rep. Yeulin Willett (R-Grand Junction) originally suggested extending the bear hunting season in a bill last session. That idea would not get bi-partisan support so he changed it to a study by the Department of Natural Resources. The study will examine why the bear population is growing and how to keep bears from getting so close.

"They are also going to look at why the bears are coming in more aggressively to humans and what might be done to haze the bears or decrease populations," Willett said.

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Willett still believes responsible hunting practices could curb bear encounters and populations but acknowledges there may be some human factors that need to be addressed. "Human problems, trash management, clean camping issues" are all factors, he says. The study will also look at how other states with large bear populations manage the animals.

In just the past week there have been at least seven bear sightings up and down the Front Range. Willett says in recent years he's seen more bears than the 40 years prior. He hopes the study will help steer the state towards a responsible solution, which he says could mean proposing more legislation.

The study started this month and will wrap up in late fall. The results should be presented to the state legislature before the end of the year.

(© 2015 KUSA)



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