Be bear-aware this summer |

Be bear-aware this summer

It seems that our ursine friends have found their way into town earlier than ever this year. And in greater numbers.The police scanner has been buzzing with bear reports. And residents have been calling the paper with stories about black bears in trees, in the yard and, of course, in the garbage. Several have even sent in pictures (see the rogues’ gallery below).This may seem unusual for civilians, but it’s not for wildlife experts.Jonathan Lowsky, Pitkin County’s staff wildlife biologist, says the increase in bear-sightings is a result of the “rebruinization” of the Central Colorado Rockies.Back in the old days, black bears were the target of ranchers’ rifles and traps. The population was reduced to levels that drastically reduced human-ursine interaction. As ranching in this area has declined and the philosophy of wildlife management has become less aggressive, the bear population has bounced back toward historic levels, Lowsky said.”We live in some of the most fantastic black bear habitat in all of Colorado,” he added. That means bears are here – in the valleys where we like to live and play – for good. That also means people must take responsibility for their property and their actions with regard to bears.Here are some things Lowsky suggests people keep in mind:- Just because you see a bear doesn’t mean there is a bear problem;- 99 percent of the time, bears are not a danger;- If you don’t want to attract bears to your home, then keep the grill clean, refrain from putting out hummingbird feeders and use bear-proof garbage containers. This is doubly important because a bear that enjoys human food once may well return and become a nuisance, which could force wildlife officers to kill it;- Fruit trees and berry bushes attract bears, so if you want a bruin-free yard, either pick the fruit before it ripens or get rid of them altogether; – If a bear finds his way into the house, call authorities and leave the bear alone; do not get between the bear and the door;- If you see a bear in a tree, leave it be; it’s probably trying to sleep;- And if you’re one of those people willing to coexist with bears on your property, then keep in mind that seeing and not interacting is the ideal human-ursine state of being.It’s up to us, those who live or play in bear country, to do what we can to coexist. And the best way to do that is to keep our distance.

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