Time to bear-proof your home | SummitDaily.com

Time to bear-proof your home

Lu Snyder

SUMMIT COUNTY – Life in the mountains can be spectacular. But it also can mean snow in July and bears in the garbage.

Yes, it’s bear season again.

Kirk Oldham, Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) district wildlife manager in Summit County, said the bear sightings have just begun and will continue until the bears hibernate again in late autumn.

“Bear problems are here to stay unless we take some … responsibility,” Oldham said. Bear sightings need not be conflicts, he said.

Bear sightings actually can be an advantage of living in the mountains, Oldham said. If residents take the right precautions, bears will pass through without conflict. If not, there will be problems.

Precautions include removing bear attractants from around homes and businesses. Attractants can be garbage (or even empty garbage cans that smell like garbage), birdseed, pet food and compost piles.

“If a bear doesn’t find abundant food, it will move on,” Oldham said. “That’s the bottom line – we are going to see bears. We’re not going to stop them from coming through our area because this is where they live, but we can stop them from becoming a nuisance and getting dangerous.”

Wildlife officials encourage residents and business owners to use wildlife-resistant or bear-proof trash receptacles. Simply putting a rock on top of a metal garbage can will not discourage a 300-pound bear. A bear-proof container usually has a foolproof latching mechanism, which will seal the container each time it’s closed, Oldham said.

Residents who don’t take the necessary steps to remove bear attractants might suffer consequences higher than a run-in with a bear. This year, the state wildlife commission approved a regulation allowing state wildlife officers to fine people who continually attract bears.

The new regulation, which went into effect May 1, allows wildlife officers to write tickets for anyone who illegally feeds big game or attracts big game by leaving food out. There is a $68 fine for each violation.

But that is a reactive measure. The key with bear conflicts is to be proactive, Oldham said. Blue River and Breckenridge both have passed proactive town ordinances that require residents to manage their trash to prevent bears, he said. Such ordinances will help minimize the problem before it occurs.

If a bear becomes a problem, the CDOW has a “two-strike” policy. First, officials tag the bear and relocate it. But Oldham said there’s little point in relocating a bear if the attractant problem isn’t first resolved, as another bear likely will come to the site for food.

According to the CDOW’s policy, a bear must be killed after its second strike.

“That’s where our saying comes in – “a fed bear is a dead bear,'” Oldham said. “You won’t find anybody in the DOW that enjoys going to that extent to get rid of a bear. That’s why we go to so much effort and lengths to educate … because we don’t want to destroy them.

Oldham stressed that while residents and visitors should each take the necessary steps to prevent attracting bears and resulting conflicts, it also is a community responsibility. If only one resident in a neighborhood removes bear attractants, it’s likely a bear will return. Oldham said wildlife officers and volunteers will come to homeowners association meeting to educate all residents about necessary precautions.

It is not necessary to contact the CDOW with a bear sighting.

“When they’re causing damage and so forth, we need to know those kinds of things,” Oldham said.

In the event one wakes up to find a bear in his or her garbage, it’s important to stay calm and not make a lot of noise.

“Back away slowly from the area,” Oldham said. “Back off, speak softly, let them finish, and call CDOW or local law enforcement. We wouldn’t recommend they try to chase the bear off. We don’t know how aggressive that bear would be to somebody.”

Lu Snyder can be reached at 970-668-3998 x203 or lsnyder@summitdaily.com

How to Keep Bears Away

– Clean outdoors grills of grease after each use

– Avoid making compost piles

– Don’t leave pet food outside

– Avoid bear conflict by removing attractants

Trash cans:

– Use bear-proof trash containers

– Store trash in a closed garage or shed

– Put out trash in the morning

– Wash trash containers regularly

Bird food:

– Hang bird feeders at least 10 feet high, on a wire between trees

– Bring feeders with seed in each night

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