Black bears have lived in the foothills and forests of Colorado since long before the pioneers arrived. Today black bears are trying to share space with an ever-growing human population. With many more people living and playing in bear country, human-bear encounters are on the rise.
With autumn officially upon us, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds residents and visitors that bears have entered a phase called hyperphagia, an instinctual need to consume as many as 20,000 calories a day in preparation for hibernation. With bears now firmly in this “feeding frenzy” period, it is especially important to bearproof your homes and cars when in bear country.
During hyperphagia, Colorado Parks and Wildlife often sees an increase in bear-human conflict reports. That’s because bears are currently foraging for food up to 20 hours a day, compared to the 2-4 hours of active foraging during spring and summer months. They are also focused on building up their fat reserves ahead of the winter. This need to store fat also brings changes to a bear’s preferred food sources, shifting from a summer diet of insects, leaves, and plants to a higher fat, higher carbohydrate diet of fruits and nuts. Given the amount of fat and carbs found in items like pet food, birdseed and food scraps in our trash, bears are more likely to let their need for calories override their innate wariness of humans once this calorie drive kicks in.
Only people can prevent conflicts with bears. Help protect Colorado’s bears by taking the following steps to bear-proof homes and personal property:
Get Rid of Attractants
- Bears follow their super-sensitive noses to anything that smells like food, and can follow scents from up to five miles away.
- Don’t leave trash out overnight unless it’s in a bear-proof enclosure or container. Obey all local regulations.
- We recommend feeding birds only when bears are hiber-nating. If you want to feed birds when bears are active, please review the Attracting Birds, Not Bears fact sheet on our website.
- 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, soaps and lotions.
Keep Bears Out
- Many bears that enter homes do so through an unlocked or open window or door. Close and lock all bear-accessible windows and doors when you leave the house, and at night before you go to bed.
- If you must leave downstairs windows open, install sturdy grates or bars. Screens don’t keep out bears.
- Keep garage doors and windows closed and locked at night and when you’re not home. Don’t leave your garage door standing open when you’re not outside. Install extra-sturdy doors if you have a freezer, refrigerator, pet food, bird seed, or other attractants in your garage.
- 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.
- Bears are great climbers — 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.
- Put on talk radio (not music) when you leave home; the human voice startles most bears.
Teach Bears They’re Not Welcome
- If a bear comes into your yard or close to your home, do yourself and the bear a big favor, and scare it away. A confident attitude plus loud noises like a firm yell, clapping your hands, banging on pots and pans or blowing an air horn sends most bears running.
- If a bear enters your home, open doors and windows and make sure 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, call your local CPW office. If a bear presents an immediate threat to human safety, call 911.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife promotes Bear Aware principles all year long, aiming to minimize interactions that put both humans and bears at risk. Being “Bear Aware” includes easy-to-execute behaviors such as securing trash cans and dumpsters, removing bird feeders, closing garages, cleaning and locking your car and calling CPW when bears become a nuisance.
Please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website for more information.