Bears: Treat ’em like movie stars
By Eben HarrellAspen Times Staff WriterA county wildlife official said yesterday that increased bear sightings in town in June were normal and not due to a poor food year.Asked whether a lack of food in the mountains has caused an unusually high number of bears to come into Aspen in search of their next meal, Pitkin County wildlife biologist Jonathan Lowsky said bears are in Aspen simply because the town is located in their natural habitat.”We live in some of the best black bear habitat in all of Colorado,” Lowsky said. “Just because you see a bear walking in your back yard in Castle Creek doesn’t mean you have a bear problem.”
He also said the increased sightings were the result of bear populations only recently beginning to recover from control efforts. From the 1870s when the first settlers arrived in Aspen until the 1970s, poisoning and shootings were common occurrences.Black bears are omnivores whose primary source of food comes from the shrubs in the mountains surrounding the Roaring Fork River. Serviceberry, choke cherry, gambel oak (which produce acorns), species of currants, and raspberries are all delicacies for bears hungry after winter hibernation. Such local fauna can also be found around the town’s edges, the main cause of human-bear encounters. Bears will occasionally forage in garbage cans and houses, becoming so-called “problem bears.” Such bears are usually tagged and relocated.Lowsky advises people who encounter a bear to “treat it like a movie star – observing it from a distance and letting it go about its business.” Black bears rarely attack humans.If a bear is discovered in your home, Lowsky advises calling 911 immediately and opening as many doors as possible without getting in the bear’s way. Residents should make sure never to place themselves between the bear and an open door or window.
To limit contact with bears, residents should clean barbecues after cooking, keep trash in bear-proof containers and indoors as long as possible, never feed pets outdoors and consider emptying bird feeders. Fruit trees should also be picked regularly.For more information contact Lowsky at 920-5395.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
— see Bears on page A8– continued from page A3For page A8If a bear is discovered in your home, Lowsky advises calling 911 immediately and opening as many doors as possible.
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