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Be wary: bears still roaming

Jeremy Heiman

It’s not time to put out the bird seed just yet.

The Roaring Fork Valley’s black bear population still hasn’t gone into hibernation, though it’s just about that time of year. A Colorado Division of Wildlife official recommends that valley residents continue to take all precautions against attracting bears for a few more weeks.

“The number of incidents has decreased dramatically,” said district wildlife manager Kevin Wright. “But we’re still having hot tub covers ripped up, and we’re still getting reports of sightings.

“There are still bears that are active.”

Wright said he saw bear tracks a few days ago on a mesa outside Carbondale.

In most years black bear sows with cubs den up in mid-October, but at least one sow has been seen in Aspen. Adult males often don’t den up until mid-November.

“This is just an unusual year,” Wright said. “I would not recommend feeding birds until at least December first.” He advises against putting out either bird seed or suet. “If they have food available, that may keep them from denning,” he said.

There’s no guarantee black bears will be in hibernation by Dec. 1, either, Wright said. “Nothing’s ever sure when you’re talking about wildlife.”

But, he said, the shorter days and the snow and cold weather may help to trigger denning behavior.

Conflicts with humans led to the deaths of three bears in the area this season. One bear trapped near Slaughterhouse Bridge and released near Divide Creek had to be killed after it broke into homes in the Apple Tree Trailer Park near New Castle.

Another captured near Missouri Heights had to be killed, and a third was shot by a citizen near Basalt. In addition, a cub was killed in Aspen when its mother tipped a trash bin onto it.

One of the cubs of the bear killed near Basalt is now in a rehabilitation center and will be placed into a den during the winter, Wright said.


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