SAN LUIS VALLEY — After a high conflict bear year last year, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is reminding the public to continue to be Bear Aware now that the animals are waking from hibernation.
According to CPW, the coming season is expected to be better than last year when food supplies were in short supply for local bears but that doesn’t mean residents and visitors can become complacent when it comes to keeping their homes safe from these hungry intruders.
“The main thing to keep in mind this time of year is that even though conditions are looking better for food sources this coming year, everyone still needs to make sure to dispose of trash in a bear safe container, lock up any containers that are not bear safe and to take in bird feeders or any other food sources that are not natural for bears. We cannot become complacent, and we all need to continue to be Bear Aware,” said District Wildlife Manager Jeremy Gallegos.
Last summer bears were affected by drought conditions and due to the lack in natural food sources, were eager to find food anywhere they could find it which resulted in an increase in bear activity within town limits throughout the San Juan Mountain Range. Communities like South Fork and Creede both witnessed bears coming close to town looking for food.
“When bears are waking up from hibernation, their natural diet consists of grass and other organic food sources in order to get their digestive systems moving,” Gallegos said. “They typically do not go for trash and other un-natural food sources right away but that doesn’t mean that some won’t try. If a bear has developed a habitual habit of seeking food from trash cans, they will go back.”
In addition to bears coming out of hibernation, some will now have cubs in tow.
“If a person should encounter a bear, it is important to remember to give them their space,” Gallegos said. “Cubs will be relying on their mothers for milk and unless the bear has been conditioned to seek food sources from trash and other sources like bird feeders, they will teach their cubs to do the same which is why it is so important to practice Bear Aware measures.”
Bears will move back to natural food sources even after a year like last summer.
“There will not be a big difference in temperament or their behavior when it comes to food even though food sources were low last season,” Gallegos said. “The bears will choose natural food sources as long as they are available but it always better to be safe than sorry.”
Towns like South Fork have ordinances in place that require residents and visitors use bear-safe trash receptacles and CPW works closely with town officials to ensure that those ordinances are enforced.
“South Fork and surrounding towns have done a great job with their ordinances and enforcing those requirements. If an issue arises, we help by working with town officials to make sure those issues are resolved quickly,” said Gallegos.
For more information or for tips on how to be Bear Aware, visit cpw.state.co.us.