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How to reduce bear-human conflicts as hibernation ends

Being "bear aware" not only protects your home and property, but it can save a bear’s life.

DENVER — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) said bears waking from hibernation are looking for food across Colorado.

CPW has already received several reports of bear activity and wildlife officials are urging residents to secure attractants.

"Bears should not be eating from trash receptacles, bird feeders or other human-provided food sources around homes or businesses," said a release from CPW.

"Every time a bear gets a treat, a bird feeder, a hummingbird feeder, or trash, it teaches the bear that people mean food," said Mark Lamb, CPW’s Area Wildlife Manager. "People who think that it’s one time, no big deal, are totally wrong. It is a big deal when you compound that ‘one time’ with how many ‘one timers’ they get from your neighbors, too. It adds up."

Early season natural food sources that are good for a bear’s digestive system are grasses, aspen buds and other vegetative matter that is beginning to sprout. Over 90 percent of a bear’s natural diet is grasses, berries, fruits, nuts and plants, said CPW.

The first bears emerging from their winter dens typically are males followed by females that did not give birth to cubs over winter. The last bears to emerge from winter dens are the females who gave birth to this year’s cubs, usually in late April, according to CPW.

Credit: Jason Clay/CPW

"Their bodies are needing to adjust to the fact that they haven’t consumed anything for sometimes six months," said Mark Vieira, Carnivore and Furbearer Program Manager for CPW.

"So there is this phase that is referred to sometimes as walking hibernation, where they are out on the landscape moving slowly and eating what tends to be more vegetative material that starts to pass through their system to get their bodies ready for early summer food sources. That is when they will move back into the typical omnivore diet that we see bears eating the rest of the year."

Tips to prevent human/bear conflicts

  • Keep garbage in a well-secured enclosure.
  • Only put out garbage on the morning of pickup; bring empty cans back inside before dark.
  • Use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. These are available online or from your trash hauler.
  • Clean all garbage cans regularly to keep them odor free. The scent of ammonia can deter bears.
  • Take down all bird feeders. Bird feeders are a major source of bear/human conflicts - 1,073 conflicts because of them between 2019-21. Birds have naturally available food sources during the spring, summer and fall. Don’t let your bird feeder become a bear feeder.
  • Don't leave pet food or stock feed outside – never provide food sources for any wildlife.
  • Install and test your electric fencing to protect your chicken coops, bee hives or even livestock enclosures.
  • Clean all BBQ grills.
  • Keep garage doors and windows closed and locked, especially between dusk and dawn.
  • Don’t leave attractants such as snacks, food wrappers, gum, or even scented hand lotions in your car; and always lock vehicle doors.
  • Use bear boxes or bear-proof containers for food and scented items when camping.
  • Don't leave food outside while camping. If bear boxes aren't available, buy your own bear canister or leave all food in the trunk of a locked vehicle as your last resort.
  • Buy an air horn or bear spray. These tools are good to have whether for your home or if you go hiking and camping. They can help haze bears away.
  • Review CPW’s Bearproofing Your Home Fact Sheet and conduct a home audit to be sure you are not attracting bears to your property.
  • Talk to your neighbors and kids about being bear aware.

For more information, visit cpw.state.co.us/bears.

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