As if bears weren't already known for their insatiable hunger, the end of summer triggers an instinctual need to pack on the pounds to prepare for the months of hibernation ahead. Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds everyone that this quest for calories, called hyperphagia, will send bears on an urgent search for food making it especially important to bearproof your homes and cars when in bear country.
During this "feeding frenzy," bears will try to eat up to 20,000 calories a day to build up their fat reserves ahead of winter, often searching for food up to 20 hours a day. Hyperphagia also triggers changes to a bear's preferred food sources, shifting from their summer diet of insects, leaves, and flowers of broad-leafed plants to a higher fat and carbohydrate diet of fruits and nuts.
It also means hungry bears will be actively seeking out the types of meals found in your trash can and around your home.
"Bearproofing your property -- including both homes and cars -- becomes even more important this time of year," said Jerrie McKee, district wildlife manager with CPW. "It only takes one person to disregard common-sense precautions for a bear to get into their trash or their home. That one careless person increases the chances that the bear will move on to a neighbor's home, car or trash can. We want everyone to understand why it's so important to take the steps to keep your property, your neighborhood, and ultimately our bear population safer."
Wildfires across the state this year may lead to more bears seeking food outside of their usual habitat, but CPW stresses that humans should not try to "help" bears by leaving food out or not hazing animals away. The agency urges residents and visitors to continue taking special care to secure trash, pet food, birdseed and other easy sources of calories for bears.
"Wildlife, including bears, are very resilient during times of habitat stress," said McKee. "In most cases, animals affected by wildfires or other stressors do not require human intervention to find food. If you have concerns about a bear or other animal, call your local CPW office, but don't take matters into your own hands -- there is never a good reason for people to feed wildlife."
Properly bearproofing your home may mean taking several of the recommended steps below:
Keep Bears Out
• Close and lock all bear-accessible windows and doors when you leave the house, and at night before you go to bed.
• Install sturdy grates or bars on windows if you must leave them open.
• Keep car doors and windows closed and locked if you park outside. Make sure there's nothing with an odor in your vehicle, including candy, gum, air fresheners, trash, lotions and lip balms.
• Close and lock garage doors and windows at night and when you're not home; garage doors should be down if you are home but not outside.
• Install extra-sturdy doors if you have a freezer, refrigerator, pet food, bird seed, or other attractants stored in your garage.
• Remove any tree limbs that might provide access to upper level decks and windows.
• Replace exterior lever-style door handles with good quality round door knobs that bears can't pull or push open.
• Don't leave trash out overnight unless it's in a bear-proof enclosure or container. Be sure to research all local ordinances and regulations if vacationing.
• Don't store food of any kind in an unlocked garage, flimsy shed or on or under your deck.
• Don't leave anything with an odor outside, near open windows or in your vehicle, even if you're home. That includes scented candles, air fresheners, lip balms and lotions.
• Only feed birds when bears are hibernating. If you want to feed birds when bears are active, bring in seed or liquid feeders at night or when you leave home.
Teach Bears They're Not Welcome
• If a bear comes close to your home, scare it away. Loud noises like a firm yell, clapping your hands, banging on pots and pans or blowing an air horn sends most bears running.
• Utilize electric fencing, unwelcome mats and scent deterrents like ammonia to teach bears that your property is not bear-friendly.
• If a bear enters your home, open doors and windows and ensure it can leave the same way it got in. Don't approach the bear or block escape routes.
• Never approach a bear. If a bear won't leave, call your local CPW office. If a bear presents an immediate threat to human safety, call 911.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has several resources available that can help you find the right methods for protecting your home and property while bears are most active. For additional information, see CPW's Living with Bears page or visit cpw.state.co.us.