Look Who’s Coming to Dinner
Bears are moving in; they often pay the price for human errors.
In the past week, three bears have been euthanized in the state of Colorado, bringing it to a total of eight in the last month and 34 this year. The bears, mostly repeat-offenders, had either gotten too close, or, were in contact with humans or livestock. So far this summer, the bears have managed to break into cars, homes, livestock pens, and, have even attacked a sleeping camper in his tent.
Today, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman, Mike Porras said “bears are sharing space with a rapidly growing human population”. Curious, intelligent, and very resourceful, black bears will explore all possible food sources. If they find food near homes, campgrounds, vehicles, or communities, they’ll come back for more. Tragically, bears that become aggressive in their pursuit of an easy meal must often be destroyed. Letting a bear get into trash can be a death sentence for a bear as they become a nuisance. In 2016, Parks and Wildlife officers euthanized 2 bears in Grand County. Three bears were relocated.
“The bear pays the price ultimately,” Porras said.
When human encounters prove successful, a bear becomes more comfortable in public spaces, leading to the increased probability of bear-human interaction. Colorado black bears are active this time of year, and while not ordinarily aggressive, it is good to know what to do if your paths should cross.
If You See a Bear…
Most bear encounters end without injury, and, each bear experience is unique, so, there is no single strategy that will work and guarantee safety.
Avoid an Encounter
Keeping your distance and not surprising bears are some of the most important things you can do. Most bears will avoid humans if they hear them coming. Pay attention to your surroundings and make a special effort to be noticeable if you are in an area with known bear activity or a good food source, such as berry bushes.
Once a bear has noticed you and is paying attention to you, additional strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating.
- Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances.
- If a bear is close-by, Pick up small children immediately.
- Identify yourself(ves) by talking calmly so the bear knows you are human and not prey. Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human.
- Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear.
- Make yourself(ves) look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
- If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. DO NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse, and, like dogs, they will chase ﬂeeing animals.
- Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away, and, always leave the bear an escape route.
If a black bear attacks you in your tent, or stalks you and then attacks, do NOT play dead—ﬁght back! This kind of attack is very rare, but can be serious because it often means the bear is looking for food and sees you as prey.
Every time a bear is destroyed, it’s not just the bear that loses. We all lose a little piece of the wildness that makes Colorado so special. So get the information you need, and share it with your friends, neighbors, and community. Do your part to keep bears wild!
Colorado Parks & Wildlife has released helpful information related to Colorado’s Black Bear population and avoiding bear-human conflict. You can find it here at: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/16AG%20BEAR%20Report-12-30-15-R2.pdf