COLORADO— Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds residents and visitors that bears have entered a phase called hyperphagia, an instinctual need to consume as many as 20,000 calories a day in preparation for hibernation. With bears now firmly in this “feeding frenzy” period, it is especially important to bearproof your homes and cars when in bear country.
During hyperphagia, CPW often sees an increase in bear-human conflict reports. That’s because bears are currently foraging for food up to 20 hours a day, compared to the 2-4 hours of active foraging during spring and summer months. They are also focused on building up their fat reserves ahead of the winter. This need to store fat also brings changes to a bear’s preferred food sources, shifting from a summer diet of insects, leaves, and plants to a higher fat, higher carbohydrate diet of fruits and nuts. Given the amount of fat and carbs found in items like pet food, birdseed and food scraps in our trash, bears are more likely to let their need for calories override their innate wariness of humans once this calorie drive kicks in.
“It’s important for people to remember that they need to keep bearproofing their homes and vehicles in the fall,” said Matt Yamashita, district wildlife manager with CPW. “The weather cooling down doesn’t mean that bear season is over; in fact, we always tell people to keep up the good habits you made spending time outdoors all summer. Keep your trash secure, don’t feed birds until well into the winter, and keep anything with a scent out of your cars. You actually help save bears by staying bear aware throughout the fall.”
Properly bearproofing your home may include 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.
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, food wrappers, 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.
Get rid of attractants
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.
Take time to clean your garbage cans to keep them odor-free; ammonia serves as both a cleaner and a bear deterrent
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, and regularly clean underneath them.
Thoroughly clean your grill after every use, ensuring grease and odors are burned off.
Pick fruit from fruit trees before it gets ripe, and do not allow fallen fruit to rot on the ground.
they’re not welcome
If a bear comes close to your home, haze it away. Loud noises like a firm yell, clapping your hands, banging on pots and pans or blowing an air horn should send 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.
“Easy access to food makes bears more comfortable in an area, more willing to push the boundaries of their natural risk-benefit instinct. If you needed to pack on the pounds and were eating up to 20,000 calories a day, finding a neighborhood alley with trash cans and dumpsters is a lot easier than hunting around for nuts and berries,” Yamashita said. “We want to avoid situations where bears become comfortable around humans at all costs. It’s up to all of us to help our bears stay wild and we just ask everyone to do your part and prevent bears from becoming too familiar with your house and neighborhood.”
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 our Living with Bears page or visit cpw.state.co.us/bears.