After long nap, bears are back |

After long nap, bears are back

Aspen Times Staff Report

Wildlife experts say the recent run of warm weather will soon rouse area bears.

Though bears most often leave their dens in April, some can be expected to wake as early as March and as late as May. Ski patrollers startled an adult and a cub out of their Aspen Mountain den Sunday while blasting to control avalanches, but others can be expected to be seen soon.

“They can start strolling around at any time now,” said Kevin Wright, Colorado Division of Wildlife Aspen district manager. “We’ve had them out in March before.”

The bears first emerge from their dens in what biologists call a “walking hibernation state.”

“They’re just trying to get all their systems up and running,” Wright said. They tend to graze in meadows much like deer and elk at this time of year, he said.

No biologist studied bears in their dens in the central and northern mountains of Colorado this winter to learn whether bears died in hibernation, Wright said. But many were expected to die over the winter because they went into hibernation undernourished. A late frost killed much of last year’s berry crop in this part of Colorado, and drought led to poor forage for bears throughout the season.

“You can expect a higher-than-average mortality, especially on cubs and yearlings,” Wright said.

Wright reminded Pitkin County residents they are now required by a county ordinance to use bear-proof trash containers if they put their trash outdoors overnight. Pitkin County and the Town of Basalt instituted ordinances after last year’s countless encounters between bears and humans in and around Aspen and the surrounding area.

Giving food to bears is still against the law, as well as being potentially dangerous to both bears and humans, Wright said.

Wright said black bear expert Tom Beck will speak in the Roaring Fork Valley on May 9. The presentation will be a feature of Bear Awareness Week, May 6-12.

Beck has done a lifetime of research on bears, Wright said, and has a deep knowledge of the beasts.

“I’d encourage anybody who’s at all interested in bears to catch this presentation,” he said.

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