RIDGWAY – Bear activity in Ouray County has increased significantly during the last two weeks, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are urging residents to take precautions to help avoid conflicts.
"Bears are attracted by unsecured garbage, bird feeders, livestock grain and barbecues," said Kelly Crane, area wildlife manager. "Bears that become habituated to sources of human food often need to be trapped and euthanized."
The hot, dry weather is forcing bears to riparian areas, especially the Uncompahgre River. Because the waterway is close to towns, bears can move easily towards unnatural food sources.
"Bears are very smart and have good memories. If they find food once, they'll return,"
Crane said. "But if they don't find food they'll keep moving and go back to sources of wild food."
Even in these dry conditions bears will find food in the wild. But bears will go first to easy sources of food at homes or businesses.
Recently, the main areas of bear activity are near Ridgway in the Dallas Meadows and Eagle Hill subdivisions, and at the east end of Ouray County Road 24. A sow and her cub have found unsecured garbage at residences in those locations. Crane has also received reports of at least one other bear in that area.
"The easily available garbage is making those bears reliant on trash. If they cause conflicts we'll most likely have to trap them and, possibly, euthanize them," Crane said.
The best thing people can do is purchase a bear-resistant trash container. Contact the local trash provider to ask about availability and the type of cans that can be used. Numerous web sites also sell containers, so search the Internet for vendors. Local retail outlets, generally, do not sell these types of trash cans.
At this time of year bears are active day and night, so always secure trash inside.
People who keep small livestock such as chickens and goats must make sure those animals are kept in fully enclosed pens or buildings at night. A simple fence won't keep bears, mountain lions or other predators – such as raccoons and foxes – out of a pen.
Wildlife officers are available to talk about keeping animals safe and how to eliminate attractants from your home or subdivision.
"We can avoid conflicts with bears, but people must do their part," Crane said. "It's not very difficult, but people must be diligent and eliminate all attractants."
Here are some tips to help avoid conflicts with bears:
Keep garbage in a well-secured location; and only put garbage out 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.
Take down bird feeders from April 15 through Nov. 15. Feeders are a major source of problems. Birds do not need to be fed during the summer. Attract birds naturally with flowers and water.
Place compost in a secure enclosure. 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.
Close bottom floor windows, especially if you're cooking and food aromas are lingering.
Always close garage doors. If a bear gets in the garage it can continue into the house.
Don't leave food in your car, and always roll up windows and lock car doors.
If you're camping, don't leave food outside unattended. Put food in your vehicle when you're not around.
Talk to neighbors who might be new to Colorado and are not yet bear aware.
Never intentionally feed bears. It's illegal, and it's dangerous.
If you see a bear in your yard, make it feel uncomfortable by making noise or throwing things at it. But do not approach a bear. A barking dog will usually keep bears away.
To talk to a wildlife officer about what you can do to help keep bears wild, call the Parks and Wildlife Montrose office at 970-252-6000. You can also learn more about bears and living with wildlife at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/LivingWithWildlife/Pages/LivingWith.aspx.