Colorado Parks and Wildlife received 3,130 bear reports from April 1 through Oct. 1, 2021, down from the 4,412 reports over the same timeframe the previous year. However, that number is growing as bears are now in hyperphagia, the period when bruins are preparing for hibernation and spend up to 20 hours a day on the hunt for 20,000 or more daily calories.
Most of the reports involve bears trying to access human food sources and CPW is calling on residents to remove attractants to reduce conflicts and keep you and the bears safe.
“Bears are biologically driven to pack on calories in preparation for winter and they spend increasing time looking for the most efficient way to do so,” said Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf. “Residents must realize it is their responsibility to secure their trash, remove other food attractants such as bird feeders, and protect backyard livestock with appropriate electric fencing to avoid conflicts that arise from attracting bears to homes.”
Although bear calls are down statewide in 2021, there are still some areas of concern. CPW’s bear report numbers since the start of hyperphagia indicate the Routt County area is seeing more bear calls this year.
Bear reports received, Aug. 1 — Sept. 30
2019: 1,935 statewide | 40 for Area 10 (includes Routt County)
2020: 1,698 statewide | 27 for Area 10
2021: 832 statewide | 84 for Area 10
“We don’t know for certain yet whether that’s due to drought, lack of natural food sources or other factors,” Middledorf said. “CPW is grateful that the Steamboat Springs community worked with us last year to pass a bear-resistant trash container ordinance, which has really helped with what might have been a year with even more conflicts.”
CPW promotes Bear Aware principles all year long, aiming to minimize interactions that put both humans and bears at risk. Being “Bear Aware” includes easy-to-execute behaviors such as securing trash cans and dumpsters, removing bird feeders, closing garages, cleaning and locking your car and house doors and calling CPW when bears become a nuisance.
Drought conditions and other factors that may influence the availability of natural food crops for bears varies across the state, as does the behavior of people when it relates to human-bear interactions. Those all play a role in the bear activity that we see annually. Below is a localized perspective on current bear activity in some places across the state.
Area 7 — Grand Junction; Mesa and Garfield counties
“In Grand Junction this year we’ve seen a bit more activity on the agricultural fringes of town. Much of the bear activity is related to orchards in and around the town of Palisade. Recent cooler weather can be a help and we’re encouraging everyone to make sure that attractants like trash, bird feeders, and barbecue grills are properly stored to not attract bears. If residents see bears in urban areas or have bears creating issues in the rural areas, please reach out to the local CPW office so we can prevent serious problems before they happen.” ~ Kirk Oldham, Area 7 Wildlife Manager
Area 16 — Gunnison Basin, North Fork Valley
“In Area 16, we were extremely fortunate in terms of precipitation and temperatures moving into our bear season. Although we are still fairly drought-stricken, we had few late freezes and enough moisture to promote what appears to be an exceptional natural food year for black bears. As you might expect, good natural food years tend to result in fewer bear/human conflicts. That said, bear reports have recently picked up, as hyperphagic animals seek out high-calorie food resources. For all of our communities, we are still recommending that folks keep their homes and property bear-proofed until hibernation. Store trash in a secure building until trash day, preferably use a bear-proof trash container, keep vehicles closed and locked, and be mindful of pet foods and other possible attractants. During years like this, people tend to get complacent; we hope to finish strong this year as a community, encouraging bears to stay wild across the board.” ~ Brandon Diamond, Area 16 Wildlife Manager
Area 18 — Incorporating Montrose, Delta, Mesa Ouray and San Miguel counties
“The summer monsoon season we experienced in this Area brought much-needed moisture during the growing season for many of our natural food sources. Berries, acorns, grass, and nuts are abundant this year,” said Area Wildlife Manager Rachel Sralla. “The plentiful natural food sources are helping to keep bears away from some of our traditional high-conflict areas, but as the bears’ need for calories intensifies we may see an uptick in bear activity.”