Summit County tallies most of area’s bear sightings for 2021 | SummitDaily.com
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Summit County tallies most of area’s bear sightings for 2021

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently released its 2021 bear report. Summit County tallied over half of all human-bear interactions in its respective region last year.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Courtesy photo

Colorado Parks and Wildlife released its 2021 bear report, and Summit County tallied over half of all human-bear interactions in its respective region last year.

Summit County is in Parks and Wildlife’s Area 9, one of five sub-areas in Parks and Wildlife’s northwest region. Area 9 encompasses all of Summit and Grand counties, and parts of Routt and Eagle counties. In 2021, Summit County bear sightings tallied over 51% of incidents involving bears.

“Of the 103 incidents that occurred in Area 9, 53 were in Summit County,” Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Rachael Gonzales said.



Across the state of Colorado, 3,701 reports of sightings and conflicts with bears were reported by Coloradans in 2021. In 2019, Parks and Wildlife launched a new tracking system to help wildlife managers track and quantify bear activity and conflicts across the state. The data derived from this system is used to identify trends and potential sources of conflict on a localized, regional and statewide level.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Area 9 includes all of Summit and Grand counties as well as small parts of Routt and Eagle counties. In 2021, Summit County bear sightings tallied over 51% of incidents involving bears.
Eliza Noe/Summit Daily News

According to a map of last year’s sightings, Summit County reported its first interaction in April, and those sightings went up exponentially over the course of late spring and summer.



How much moisture a region gets can greatly determine how much bear activity will happen in that region, Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Adrian Archuleta said. Low moisture means less vegetation for bears and other wildlife to eat, and less vegetation means that bears are more likely to seek out other food sources such as trash cans or campsites. According to Parks and Wildlife, bears trying to access trash is the leading cause of conflict.

“Depending on that moisture that I talked about, you know, it can really ramp up going into that autumn time frame, if the food isn’t really available,” Archuleta said. “Those bears are having to seek alternate food sources, or if the moisture is there, it can stay relatively quiet. It’s almost like a light switch flips.”

Summit County has seen a large portion of bear interactions in the area over the past three years. Available data from Parks and Wildlife shows that 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.

“The southwest region also had a big reduction in bear reports in 2021 compared to the average of the two previous years (51.2% decrease), but the northwest, where much of the region was in severe drought, was up,” a news release from Parks and Wildlife reads. “The 1,834 bear reports filed from the northwest in 2021 was 192 more than in 2020, but was also fewer than the 2,146 on record for 2019.”

Currently, Summit County — much like other areas of the Western Slope — is seeing a continuation of drought conditions over the last several years. As of March 3, the latest data available, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that Summit County was still at D1 level intensity, or moderate drought.

“One of the biggest things that I think determines what level of bear activity we’re going to see as far as human-bear conflicts is whether we get monsoonal (precipitation) and get some moisture,” Archuleta said. “That’s really critical in order to make berries and acorns pop. Years where we get good moisture, and that food mass is readily available in abundance, we tend to have less interaction and conflict (compared to) years where it’s very dry, or years that have a freeze event. A late frost can be very detrimental.”


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