Bears are back – be aware
Well, if you weren’t already expecting it, now you know: Bear season is upon us.Not a hunting season, but the season in which local black bears enter Roaring Fork Valley yards, homes and garbage cans in search of food. Last week, The Aspen Times published its first “bear incident” story of the year; residents of the Blue Lake subdivision in El Jebel saw bruins wandering their neighborhood in search of scraps. One person saw a sow and two cubs rummaging through a neighbor’s trash cans.At this point it’s unclear what drove these animals down from the hills onto the valley floor. Some have already postulated that, given the cool weather of early June, no berries have yet appeared in the mountains, so the hungry bears are looking farther downhill. On the other hand, it could be that some other disturbance or human encroachment has pushed the animals out of their traditional feeding areas. Or maybe these are simply the first bears to act this year on the bad habits they learned during summer 2004, when hungry beasts invaded local homes and yards in unprecedented numbers and wildlife officers were forced to kill several “problem bears” (a June freeze killed most of the berry crop, forcing the bears to find other food).Whatever the case, smart locals will consider the Blue Lake incident a warning, and will amend their habits accordingly. We’ve written these kinds of editorials before, but they merit repetition. As the saying goes, a fed bear is a dead bear. So let’s all do the bears a favor by not tempting them. Take care to clean up all garbage, pet food, livestock feed, fallen fruit and other potential attractants on your property. If you see a bear seeking food near your home, try to discourage the bear from returning by making noise (banging pots together, for example) or spraying it with a garden hose. If you don’t already have a bear-proof garbage container (required in Pitkin County), then get one. Contact your garbage hauler for more information. Where possible, secure your garbage inside a building and move it outside only on pickup day. Remove all bird feeders. Clean all barbecue grills and burn off any food residue. Don’t compost any fruit or vegetables, only grass clippings and appropriate yard waste. Close and lock all ground-level windows and doors at night.Chances are this summer won’t be as wild as 2004, and the bears in Blue Lake may prove an isolated case. Still, if we plan for the worst, then we improve the odds for the best outcome – no dead bears.