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It's important to be bear-responsible

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By Sylvia Brockner

Bears have been particularly plentiful this summer and will continue to be until about the first of November when snow and cold weather will send them into hibernation.

We have had a female with three cubs roaming around Herzman’s Mesa most of the summer. This is a dangerous situation, and we need to do everything we can do to avoid human contact with these bears.

It is an easy thing to control bears for it is people’s garbage that attracts them like a magnet, and keeping garbage inside in a covered airtight can is one way of controlling their raids and their presence in the neighborhood. This is not just wishful thinking, but a proven fact.

In the Catskill Mountains of New York, there is an exceptionally large bear population, yet they seldom have a bear/human conflict because they have had serious garbage laws for years. People are heavily fined for putting their garbage out the night before pickup, so they just don’t do it.

Bears do not just associate garbage with people unless they have been taught to do so by careless people who put their garbage out to sit all night perfuming the neighborhood. Bears are gifted with a wonderful sense of smell and will come from miles to the whiff of garbage. The Catskills are much like Evergreen. There are hundreds of summer cabins and many fine restaurants in a forest area about 25 miles from New York City.

Unfortunately, once bears learn about garage, they become addicted to it and are quickly attracted by the odor. They never forget that smell and will seek it out over and over again. This makes it all but impossible to take them far enough away so that they won’t return.

Black bears seldom attack people but will if you have food and they are hungry. Much of their range does not provide enough food for them to gain enough weight in the fall to carry them through the winter. These are the bears that turn to people’s garbage and get themselves in trouble. If you want to know more about bears, the Wildlife Discovery Films on television are excellent and their companion book, “Bears of the World,” is available in the Jeffco Public Library. Enjoy them and learn more about these big neighbors.

Black bears seldom attack people but will if you have food and they are hungry. Much of their range does not provide enough food for them to gain enough weight in the fall to carry them through the winter. These are the bears that turn to people’s garbage and get themselves in trouble.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has a brochure called “Living With Bears” that is very helpful in providing information about the bear population. Among the information:

• Bear are intelligent, resourceful and amazing animals.

• Black is a species, not a color. In Colorado, many black bears are blonde, cinnamon or brown.

• Over 90 percent of a bear’s natural diet is grasses, berries, fruits, nuts and plants. The rest is primarily insects and scavenged carcasses.

• During late summer and early fall, bears need 20,000 calories a day to gain enough weight to survive the winter without eating or drinking.

• Bears are not naturally nocturnal, but sometimes travel at night in hopes of avoiding humans.

Much of what people throw away smells like food to a hungry bear. Standard metal or plastic trash cans won’t keep out bears. Once bears learn where it’s easy to get at the garbage, they’ll come back again and again.

Never leave trash or recyclables out overnight. Empty cans and boxes still smell like food. One study showed that simply putting trash out the morning of pickup cuts the chances of a bear visit from 70 percent to 2 percent.

If you must leave trash outside, buy a bear-proof container, build a bear-proof enclosure or install an electric fence. To avoid attracting bears, clean containers regularly with ammonia or bleach.

Bears that learn garbage equals food sometimes come inside homes looking for more. Don’t make it easy for bears to visit. Keep bear-accessible windows and doors in your home and garage locked.

Get in the habit of being bear-responsible.

• Don’t feed bears, and don’t put out food for other wildlife that attracts bears.

• Be responsible about trash and bird feeders.

• Burn food off barbecue grills and clean after each use.

• Don’t leave food, trash, coolers, air fresheners or anything that smells in your vehicle.

• Talk to your neighbors about doing their part to be bear-responsible.