Bears moving


Near drought conditions in Northwest Colorado have not only been tough on farmers and ranchers, but have also been tough on the bears.

The hungry bruins are coming into populated areas looking for handouts.

Berries and acorns, mainstays of a bears' diet, aren't holding up due to the hot, dry, weather, and hungry bears could be forced to move down out of the high country to look for food in mountain communities.

"Under normal conditions, black bears forage leafy greens at higher elevations through late July or early August. Dry conditions have pushed the blooming cycle up and reduce the time bears have to eat their greens before the berries and acorns arrive," said Tom Beck, The Division of Wildlife wildlife researcher.

"The biggest problem for all of us still is getting proper garbage storage done on a large scale, communitywide effort," said Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) officer Libby Miller.

Officials fear this year could be the worst yet if residents don't take precautions to eliminate attractive food sources.

DOW officials have been trapping bears that are creating problems in residential areas or campgrounds, but the problem is finding places to relocate them. Bears are known to travel more than 100 miles to areas where they can get an easy meal.

The trapped bears are ear tagged. If bears get into trouble a second time they are destroyed.

Mountain communities throughout Colorado have been plagued by the dumpster diving bruins this year.

District wildlife manager, Mike Reid in Pagosa Springs, said the dry weather has taken its toll in his area. Bears are drinking water from open septic tanks.

Two bears were killed on June 1 and 2 in the Durango area after invading human habitats. One bear was shot and killed by a homeowner after it tried to enter his home. Another bear was killed after it was caught eating chickens.

Colorado's bear population is estimated at between 8,000 and 12,000. Most of those bears live in the southwest and south-central part of the state at between 5,000 and 9,500 feet. Their main food source is the gambelis oak, a native shrub that produces acorns.

To reduce problems with bears, the DOW suggests reducing temptations. Bears think with their stomachs and follow their noses. Any efforts to curtail easy food sources will minimize encounters with bears.

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