The Colorado Division of Wildlife sent this website a press release this week concerning the problems people are having with bears in the San Luis Valley. I sent a note back saying that the real problem is that our bears are so crowed here around Pagosa that they are going over the divide to escape. Ed.
The following is an article by a local after a bear conflict.
Last week a hungry bear got into the trash in our garage looking for a meal, spread it around the yard, and then opened the freezer containing bones and meat for our dogs and made off with a package of frozen elk meat, leaving the freezer door open in his/her wake. The bear was tall enough to leave “handprints” along the top of our 1960 Land Rover (over my head). Needless to say this was no baby bear!
By the next night we had nailed up the broken out windows in our garage, repaired the doors so they could close, used several straps to bearproof the freezer and removed the trash. We felt pretty good about our belated bearproofing until about 3 a.m. when the dog said, “woof!” at the noise of a squeaking garage door. I think I hear a bear in the garage!
By the time we arrived the bear had vacated and left a hole in our garage door 6’ x 6’. All we could say was, “wow!” We hopped in the truck and roared down to the barn, shining lights across the field and making noise – just to help the bear realize he’d better high tail it out of there.
Early morning phone calls to the neighbors brought back a reply that they would work on bear-proofing, with one call back that the bear had already raided sweet feed in a barn up the road. We’re pretty close to thousands of acres of National Forest. I like knowing the critters are OUT THERE, but I don’t necessarily like knowing they are in my garage.
All this prompted a call to the Wildlife people (Durango office) and I was sorely reprimanded by a young lady telling me it was our fault and we should have been better prepared, ie: garage door closed, sealed containers, etc. After all I’m pretty much a wilderness girl, and I wouldn’t go to sleep in my tent with food in it, now would I?
Later that evening our local Wildlife agent was kind enough to call me back and spend about an hour of his time sharing hard-earned wisdom from 20 years of chasing bears and mountain lions around this countryside. So perhaps his efforts will go beyond just me, and to make our neighborhoods safer for all of us AND THE BEARS – I’ll share a few of his key points here. It is really up to all of us to live preventively, so that the bears don’t find “convenience food” in our back yards, and they stay where they belong, in the wilds. They are the ones likely to lose their lives if they become too much of a nuisance, and I think it’s a very sad commentary and really primarily our faults when this happens.
Lack of food in the wild brought them into our neighborhoods in search of food. I know on our street trash cans were repeatedly knocked over and one neighbor even had a bear in his house! So when those bears came out of hibernation this spring what was the first thing that came to their minds? “I remember where I had a meal last fall!” And they returned to our neighborhoods even though there is enough food in the wild right now, which includes some roots, and soon young elk and deer.
Key things we can do to live in a way to discourage bears to come near our homes or neighborhoods (thus keeping their lives more natural and preventing unnecessary contact/destruction). Our Wildlife agent says the more uncomfortable you can make them when they show up, the better, and if they’ve found a meal once, they’re bound to come back; though it takes a little effort, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
1. TRASH: Two of the trash removal companies in town have bear proof containers, one doesn’t. Try and obtain a trash removal service that will be bear proof. If yours isn’t, keep it locked up in a secure location such as a shed until just before pickup.
2. LIVESTOCK FEED: Keep in 50 gallon drum with lid that cranks down/ keep in enclosed area.
3. MOTION LIGHT: Using a double-socket motion light fixture, put a bulb in one side, and a plug in the other with a radio that will come on if there is motion in your yard of barnyard.
4. ELECTRIC FENCING: around areas you would like to keep the bears out.
5. AMMONIA: in a trash can is a deterrent, and ammonia water balloons scattered around an area will help deter them.
6. PEPPER SPRAY – in the large size can may be a good thing to have around – but be careful with use – and have a backup plan.
7. Outdoor refrigerator or freezer: lash closed in several places, as with one lashing a bear can actually bend the door to try to open it.
Bears are smart. When destruction has been reported in an area repeatedly the Colorado Division of Wildlife will catch and tag them. If there is a second occurrence, the bear will likely be euthanized. I would like to think that it is our responsibility as much as possible to prevent this by wisely taking precautions that keep the bears from finding a meal in our yard.
This is just one of the complexities of wilderness being our back yard, and I’d rather love the bears from a healthy distance! It takes all of us working together though, to keep them from thinking our neighborhoods are an easy place to refuel.
Here are some tips to help keep bears out of trouble:
- Keep garbage in a well-secured location; only put out garbage on the morning of pickup. Clean garbage cans with ammonia regularly to keep them odor free.
- If you don’t have secure storage, put items that might become smelly into the freezer until trash day.
- Don’t leave pet food or stock feed outside.
- Bird feeders should be brought in at this time of year — birds don’t need to be fed during the summer.
- If you have bird feeders: clean up beneath them, bring them in at night, and hang them high so that they’re inaccessible to bears.
- Don’t compost. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food — and they’ll eat anything.
- Allow grills to burn for a couple of minutes after cooking to burn off grease and to eliminate odors. Clean the grill after each use.
- If you have fruit trees, pick fruit before it gets too ripe. Don’t allow fruit to rot on the ground.
Some of the major problems:
Bird feeders — Birds do not need to be fed during the summer so take down any feeders until mid-November. Bird feeders are a huge attractant for bears. Once they learn that feeders provide a lot of food, they won’t stop tearing them down.
Pet food — Pet food holds strong aromas and can draw bears in from miles around. Don’t store pet food outside or in unsecured buildings. After feeding your pet, rinse out the dish and store it inside.
Small livestock — Bears have been killing chickens, goats and other small animals kept by small agricultural producers. Bears can smell livestock feed and pick up the scent of these animals from far away. If you keep small livestock, make sure the animals are kept in a secure building at night, or that the pen is completely covered and built solidly. Parks and Wildlife can provide information about building an electrified enclosure.
Garbage — Only put out garbage the morning of pick-up or secure it in a bear-proof can or dumpster. Homeowners’ Associations should consider centralizing trash areas in a location than can be secured with an enclosure.
It’s the responsibility of the property owner to remove items that are attracting bears. “Homeowners and campers will be ticketed and may be required to appear in court for failing to take remedial action to remove items that are attracting black bears.”
People must be part of the solution with bear conflicts.
If property owners want help in eliminating attractants, district wildlife officers will assist them. If they show no willingness to clean up, the agency will not be available to take care of the mess.