Officials remind valley residents to stay vigilant and bear-aware
By Kristy Acuff
Thankfully, so far it has been a slow start to bear season in the valley. With the exception of the bear breaking into the Pitkin post office earlier this month, bear-human conflict has been minimal, in part due to the ongoing efforts of people to keep their places clean and tight.
“I hate to jinx myself, but I haven’t heard of much activity yet,” says Crested Butte marshal Mike Reily. “The bears are out and about for sure, but people are doing an excellent job of keeping their trash secured and not putting out bird feeders, and this is keeping the bears from coming into town for food. If we let our guard down, though, it won’t take long for the bears to take advantage of that and start foraging in town for food.”
While keeping trash secured is a town ordinance, Reily says it is also a good idea to refrain from hanging bird feeders of any kind during any time of day. Although some homeowners will hang a bird feeder during the day and bring it inside at night, Reily cautions that even hanging them during the day can attract bears.
“Once their food sources dry up in the wild, they will come to town looking for so-called ‘low-hanging fruit,’ and any type of bird feeder is going to attract their interest, day or night,” says Reily.
The Gunnison field office of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) division also reports few incidents of bear activity so far in the area. Aside from receiving a few calls from area residents reporting bear sightings or bear scat in their backyards, the CPW office says no one has reported bear-human conflict or property damage other than the Pitkin post office incident, when a bear entered the building after hours using a push-down door handle and then couldn’t escape. Postal workers discovered the bear the next morning and when wildlife officers discovered a tag on the bear’s ear indicating a previous human encounter or disturbance, they were forced to put down the bear.
“It has been pretty quiet in terms of bear activity, which has been a bit of a surprise considering the hot and dry conditions,” says CPW wildlife manager J Wenum. “We were anticipating a lively bear activity year because of the impact of the drought on wild food sources. But so far it has been quiet. As things continue to dry out we could see an uptick in activity.”
Wenum reminds everyone to keep trash secured and put away feeders and grills, which can attract bears. “The bear is a smart animal and is a one-experience learner,” says Wenum. “It only takes one experience with trash or a grill for a bear to remember it as a food source and come back looking for more.”