Don’t blame lack of bear hunt, says DOW |

Don’t blame lack of bear hunt, says DOW

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DURANGO, Colo. ” The lack of a spring bear hunt is not a factor in the seeming invasion of every nook and cranny of the state by bears, wildlife officials say.

It is a shortage of natural food in the Durango area, which is experiencing trouble with bears, much as is Aspen and Pitkin County. Bears need 20,000 calories daily to prepare for hibernation and a shortage of berries caused by drought and late frosts is sending them into urban areas in larger than normal numbers.

Total bear deaths in Colorado were virtually the same in the five years (1988-1992) that preceded the elimination of the spring bear hunt and the first five years without a spring hunt (1993-1997), state Division of Wildlife statistics indicate. Bears are put down if they are caught in urban areas twice.

“About the first of August, black bears shift gears,” said Jerry Apker of the Division of Wildlife. “They’re eating 20 to 22 hours a day at this time of year and they need 20,000 to 25,000 calories a day.”

The vast majority bears will be in their winter dens by late September or mid-October and they should all be tucked away by mid-November, he said.

He said bears can handle one or two catastrophic food years in a decade.

The outlook for natural fall foods isn’t good, said Bryan Peterson with Bear Smart Durango, a program that educates people about living with bears.

“Acorns are spotty. I see oak brush, but I see acorns very, very rarely,” Peterson said.

Serviceberries were small and dried early, when they came out at all. The chokecherry crop looks fairly decent.

“But bears are going for garbage and birdseed because it’s available,” Peterson said. “Human food is high-calorie. A seven-pound tube of birdseed has 11,000 calories.

Pitkin County commissioners are expected to vote Tuesday on a proposed ordinance that would impose fines of up to $1,000 on homeowners who don’t have bear-proof their garbage bins or enclosures.