Bear Aware project seeking Aspen volunteers
ASPEN – Colorado Parks and Wildlife is urging Aspen-area residents to join a volunteer program designed to reduce conflicts between bears and humans in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The agency will hold a training session May 10 for people who want to participate in the Bear Aware program. The team training is free. It will be from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Rio Grande Room at 455 Rio Grande Place in Aspen.
Bear Aware groups have been formed in cities, towns and counties throughout Colorado to enlist residents’ help in educating others on how to reduce conflicts with black bears.
“The Bear Aware team’s main duty is to fan out throughout their local community and personally remind their friends and neighbors about some of the practical things everyone can do to minimize dangerous bear interactions,” the agency said in a statement.
District Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright said the program has helped in the past to spread the word about bear-friendly practices that homeowners and visitors should undertake.
“The volunteers live in the community and personally know many of their neighbors,” Wright said. “They have a strong interest in making sure things are done right.”
Wildlife officers are bracing for a possible increase in conflicts this year because of the early spring warm-up. There is still danger of frost affecting vegetation such as oak trees and serviceberries, which supply much of the bears’ natural diet. Drought is also a threat.
In 2009, wildlife officers had to kill a record 20 bears in Pitkin County because of conflicts with humans. No bears were killed the following year. Fewer than five were killed last year, a Parks and Wildlife spokesman said.
“We cannot make predictions, but it’s important to begin taking steps to deal with a challenging year, and Bear Aware teams are an important component of those preparations,” Wright said.
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Renters in Aspen are facing rent increases this year but there are resources and COVID-19 relief available on the local, state and federal levels.