Bear starting to awaken from their winter naps — watch your trash | SummitDaily.com

Bear starting to awaken from their winter naps — watch your trash

Scott Miller / Vail Daily

There haven't yet been any bears spotted in local neighborhoods, but the animals are starting to awaken, and they're hungry.

A scarcity of snow and bare ground that isn’t yet starting to green could result in hungry bears with few options for food.

State and local authorities last week got a bit of an early start on bear awareness information. The start of the information campaign this year has come before any bear reports in either Vail or Eagle. Neither police department has received any reports of people spotting the animals yet.

Still, bears have come out in places along the Front Range foothills.

Rebecca Ferrell, of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said there have been recent reports of bears wandering neighborhoods in the Colorado Springs area.

Across the state, though, a late freeze or a dry summer will put a lot of stress on bear populations. In some cases, the animals’ constant search for food can lead to conflicts with humans.

Bears are very hungry when they awaken from their winter sleep — they don’t actually hibernate. The also spend much of the time when they’re awake feeding to bulk up for the next winter.

Recommended Stories For You

“Hungry as a bear” is no idle cliche. That means they’ll often look for human food if they can’t find natural forage.

Eagle Police Department executive assistant Erin Ivie said bears in dry summers are frequently spotted along Brush Creek in the Eagle Ranch area. There, Ivie said, the animals are often mother bears with cubs.

And an angry mother bear can ruin just about anyone’s day.

In dry years, bears have been spotted in populated areas throughout the valley.

Ferrell said once a bear is habituated to human food — from bird feeders to grills to garbage — it’s smart enough to return to the easiest food sources it can find.

The town of Vail has long had regulations requiring either wildlife-resistant trash cans or rules that trash can only be put out on pickup days.

The town of Avon has similar regulations.

Neither Eagle nor Gypsum require wildlife-resistant trash containers.

For places where there’s no requirement for them, Ferrell and other wildlife officials have a standard list of recommendations. Those include bringing in bird feeders, cleaning off grills and not storing pet food outside.

Ferrell also recommended that, when possible, people should store their garbage in their garages until pickup day. Smelly items can be bagged and stored in the freezer, too.

“Trash is the No. 1 thing we can do to prevent (conflicts),” Ferrell said. “There are a lot of small things people need to be cognizant of.”

Reducing bear-human conflicts can be a matter of life and death for an animal. A bear caught in a populated area will be tagged and moved once. If it’s caught again, then the animal is euthanized.

No one wants that.

“We don’t get into this business to lose wildlife,” Ferrell said. “Our goal is to educate people.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 and smiller@vaildaily.com.