As bear season begins, Aspen-area residents warned to lock up trash cans
Residents also should be alert with increase in moose population in upper Roaring Fork Valley
Nature’s annual wake-up call has been issued and bears in Aspen and the upper Roaring Fork Valley are beginning to appear in the usual spots, sources said Friday.
So far, Aspen police have received just four calls about bear activity — all in the east end of town — since March 25, though with weather becoming warmer in the coming weeks, more activity is expected, said Ginna Gordon, APD’s bear expert.
“We’re starting to see bears wake up,” she said. “They’re gonna be hungry and looking for food.”
At least one of the recent calls — the last of which was received Wednesday — involved a bear in the Mountain Valley area getting into an unsecured garbage can, Gordon said. The homeowner was issued a warning and police instructed the person to obtain a bear-resistant garbage can, which are required by city ordinance.
Bear-resistant trash cans are available at Ace Hardware and the Miner’s Building in Aspen for around $200, Gordon said.
Tara Alibrandi, Pitkin County’s animal safety and community resource officer, said the county hasn’t yet received any bear reports from neighborhoods they tend to frequent like Lazy Glen or Aspen Village, but paw prints and droppings are signs that hibernation season is coming to an end.
The first bears to show up in spring are usually males, followed by sows who didn’t give birth over the winter and, finally in late April, sows that did give birth, according to a Thursday news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Aspen buds and grasses generally are the first foods bears fresh from hibernation will eat to help them “adjust back to normal after not consuming anything for months,” according to the CPW. Later, they turn to berries, fruits, nuts and other plants that are dependent on rainfall.
“In years (when) good moisture and natural food sources are abundant, bear conflicts and interactions are down,” according to the CPW release. “Though most human-bear interactions occur in the late summer and fall months, a late frost or prolonged dry weather could lead to localized natural food failures and a rise in conflicts.”
Kurtis Tesch, CPW’s area wildlife manager for the upper Roaring Fork Valley, said Friday that a lack of late spring freezing temperatures so far has meant that natural bear food sources are looking good. The recent snowstorm that moved through the area dumped several inches of snow, which has prompted a nice crop of green spring grasses, he said.
The past two seasons of bear-human interactions have been fairly light — few bears have been euthanized in the area — which Tesch attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents, for the most part, stayed home and restaurants in Aspen’s downtown core were about half full, meaning dumpsters in alleys were more depleted than usual, he said.
“This year, with COVID lifting, hopefully, I will be interested in what we will see,” he said. “’When dumpsters are overflowing or people leave trash unsecured, it creates a food source for them.”
And once bears learn they can obtain food from trash instead of natural sources, the animals cannot unlearn that knowledge, Tesch said.
In order to keep bears from getting into residential trash, CPW recommends keeping trash in a secured enclosure, putting garbage out for collection the morning of pickup and bringing empty cans back before dark, cleaning garbage cans regularly with ammonia, taking down all bird feeders, not leaving pet or stock food outside, regularly cleaning barbecue grills and keeping garage doors and windows locked, especially between dusk and dawn.
For more information about living with bears, go to http://www.cpw.state.co.us/bears.
Tesch also said residents should be on the look out for moose in the upper Roaring Fork Valley. Moose populations have been on the increase in recent years and hikers and dog walkers should make sure to keep their distance if they spot a moose, which are much more aggressive than bears, he said.
“I would be much more scared of moose than anything else,” Tesch said. “People need to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their pets.”
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