Be bear aware as animals leave hibernation
SUMMIT COUNTY – Imagine how hungry and grouchy you’d be if you were just waking up from a six-month nap. Now try and imagine that you’re about eight feet tall and 300 pounds, with a set of four-inch claws and a nasty case of hibernation hair, rummaging through a backyard garbage can when someone turns up and points a flashlight at you.Not a pretty picture, and a recipe for potential disaster. But that’s exactly what’s going on with Colorado’s 8,000 to 12,000 black bears, most of which will be coming out of hibernation in the next few weeks. As integral as these animals are to our landscape, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) encourages residents to avoid unwanted encounters with bears by following a few simple precautions.”Many people do not realize they can minimize the chance of encounters with bears. Right now is the best time to walk your property and remove any bear attractants from sight and smell,” said Bob Davies, a senior biologist with the DOW. He recommends “bear-proofing” your property by removing items a bear might consider potential food sources such as bird feeders, pet food left outside or unsecured trash cans.These things may seem insignificant, but they can create behavior patterns in bears which often cannot be reversed. If there was bear activity in your neighborhood last year, you’ll need to be extra careful this year, as bears will return to the same locations where they have been successful finding food in the past. If the home or business owner does not take action to remove the bear attractants (anything that smells like potential food), it is only a matter of time before the bear will return. Bears are generally shy and usually avoid humans, but their need for food and sense of smell often draws them to human residences. Remember, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” By making food available to a bear, people train it to associate humans with food. Once a bear learns this association, it can become dangerous and often must be killed. Colorado has a “two strike” rule for dealing with problem bears. The first time a bear gets into trouble, it receives an ear tag marking it as a problem bear. Another serious encounter, or “second strike,” means the bear will be killed.
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