Black bears in Colorado are entering hyperphagia, a time of abnormally increased appetite, and will spend up to 20 hours a day trying to eat more than 20,000 calories to fatten up for winter. As bears start to prepare for hibernation and hunt for food, Coloradans may see more bear activity in urban areas.
Most conflicts between people and bears can be traced to easily accessible human food, trash, fruit trees, shrubs or other attractants with strong odors as a bear’s natural drive to eat can overcome its fear of humans. When bears become too comfortable around humans, they can destroy property or even become a threat to human safety.
“Although black bears are not naturally aggressive and seldom attack or injure people, they are still powerful, wild animals with a strong urge to get food and calories,” said Jamin Grigg, a senior wildlife biologist from CPW’s southwest region. “Understanding bear behaviors and being aware of what steps you can take to avoid bears from approaching your home is an important part of living in Colorado bear country.”
Black bears are omnivorous, meaning they will eat a variety of things, including both plants and meat. However, much of a black bear’s natural diet consists of berries, fruits, nuts, plants, and grasses that grow naturally in the foothills and forests. Drought conditions in the northwest part of the state have impacted the natural growth and the prevalence of food sources for black bears, however, natural food sources are still available in the area.
“Research shows that bears prefer natural sources of food. But they will find sources of human-provided food if it’s available, which can become dangerous to humans,” said Brad Banulis, a senior wildlife biologist from Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s northwest region. “Preventing bears from relying on human food sources takes a community effort, and it’s important that we all take proactive steps to avoid any possible conflicts with bears and bearproof our homes.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers these tips and precautions to help you prevent human/wildlife conflicts that can also save a bear’s life.
Bearproofing Your Home
- Keep garbage in a well-secured location.
- Only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.
- Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them free of food odors: ammonia is effective.
- Use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.
- Don’t leave pet food or stock feed outside.
- Bird feeders are a major source of bear/human conflicts. Attract birds naturally with flowers and water baths. Do not hang bird feeders from April 15 to Nov. 15.
- Do not attract other wildlife by feeding them, such as deer, turkeys or small mammals.
- Don’t allow bears to become comfortable around your house. If you see one, yell at it, throw things at it, make noise to scare it off.
- Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.
- Clean the grill after each use.
- Clean-up thoroughly after picnics in the yard or on the deck.
- If you have fruit trees, don’t allow the fruit to rot on the ground.
- If you keep small livestock, keep animals in a fully covered enclosure. Construct electric fencing if possible.
- Don’t store livestock food outside, keep enclosures clean to minimize odors, hang rags soaked in ammonia and/or Pine-Sol around the enclosure.
- If you have beehives, install electric fencing where allowed.
- Talk to your neighbors and kids about being bear aware.
- Keep garage doors closed.
Cars, Traveling and Campsites
- Lock your doors when you’re away from home and at night.
- Keep the bottom floor windows of your house closed when you’re not at home.
- Do not keep food in your vehicle; roll up windows and lock the doors of your vehicles.
- When car-camping, secure all food and coolers in a locked vehicle.
- Keep a clean camp, whether you’re in a campground or in the backcountry.
- When camping in the backcountry, hang food 100 feet or more from the campsite; don’t bring any food into your tent.
- Cook food well away from your tent; wash dishes thoroughly.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife asks all residents and visitors to help save Colorado’s bears by being actively bear aware throughout the late summer and fall seasons. Bear conflicts and, unfortunately, bear euthanization is most often traced back to human behavior. It is all of our responsibility to help minimize risks to humans and bears alike by being mindful of our impacts.
Written by Bridget Kochel. Bridget is a public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.