Human-bear conflicts spike in Summit County as August, September totals double last year’s reports

A bear wanders around Keystone.
Joel Wexler/Courtesy photo

Human-bear interactions have increased in Area 9, which includes Summit County, according to a new report from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. 

Rachael Gonzales, public information officer with Parks and Wildlife, said human-bear conflict reports in Summit County doubled when comparing combined August and September totals from 2021 to 2022, a rise from 12 to 24 respectively. When looking at the same time frame, 1,571 bear conflicts were reported across the state. Parks and Wildlife officials say that’s a significant increase from 2021, when there were only 887 statewide.

Local totals for conflicts are rising at a higher rate in Summit County than across the state.

The county has had 65 human-bear conflict reports between April 1 and Sept. 30, which is up from 44 reports in the same time period last year, a 47% increase. Across the state, Parks and Wildlife received 3,614 conflict reports from April 1 through Oct. 1, an increase from the 3,155 reports over the same timeframe the last year, which is an increase by about 15%.

Over the course of 2021, Summit County reported 53 human-bear interactions — with the peak of those conflicts happening during the summer. Last June, there were 15 interactions, and there were 12 in July, according to Parks and Wildlife data. Summit County tallied over half of all human-bear interactions in its respective region last year, reporting 51% of incidents in Area 9. Summit County had 93 of the 183 incidents in Area 9 in 2019. In 2020, Area 9 had 225 bear interactions, and 87 of those were in Summit County.

Reducing attractants

Bears are currently in hyperphagia, a process in which bears are preparing to den for winter by spending up to 20 hours a day on the hunt for 20,000 or more daily calories, and Parks and Wildlife officials are attributing that as a cause of more bear interactions. Area 9 includes Summit and Grand counties and small parts of Eagle and Routt counties.

Jeromy Huntington, wildlife manager Area 9, offered a possible reason for why reports are up for the year in the region.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in unnecessary conflicts with bears in Grand County as result of poor trash management and bird feeding activities despite a decent natural food year,” Huntington said. “We are thankful that some residents are being responsible and have taken action to live with wildlife, but it ultimately takes a community effort.”

Throughout the late summer and fall, residents of Summit County have also noted bear conflicts involving trash and bird feeders. Within one week in August, residents in the Wildernest Village in Silverthorne and in Dillon Valley reported bears within feet of their homes. One resident reported that a bear ran into their backyard after they left the windows open while they cooked. Another said a bear wandered near their home and was caught on their camera-equipped doorbell. 

In July, the town of Silverthorne passed an ordinance regarding garbage pick-up to reduce the impact of wildlife in neighborhoods. Now, according to the ordinance, containers can not be on the curb in Silverthorne between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Households that decide to keep their containers out overnight will first receive a written warning that then escalates to a $100 fine. Upon a third violation, the resident is required to purchase a wildlife resistant container. 

Parks and Wildlife managers are encouraging the public to continue behaviors that reduce human-bear conflicts.

“We continue to ask residents and guests to remove attractants, secure your homes, camp responsibly and remember to lock your vehicles,” Huntington said.

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