Downvalley bear activity down headed into fall binge season
As temperatures cool across the Roaring Fork Valley, some of the valley’s furriest residents are expected to be out and looking for food before hibernation begins. Bears across Colorado will be active this fall as they’ve now entered hyperphagia, or feeding frenzy, before their long winter sleep.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials, bears will actively forage as many as 20 hours per day during the fall, compared with just two to four hours of active foraging during the spring and summer.
During September, bears typically concentrate at lower elevations where fruits and nuts are abundant from mid-August to October.
CPW Northwest public information officer Mike Porras said bear sightings this fall and summer have been down compared with previous years, which may be due to the animals having natural foods more readily available to them.
“We have not seen the level of activity we’ve had in the past,” he said.
Porras said that, because of drier conditions and warmer temperatures, the state did not get a late frost in the spring, so berries, acorns and other food sources may be available to bears more so than they have been in the past.
He said that the Aspen district is typically a good indicator for bear activity and conflicts for the rest of the state, as it, unlike some of the other offices at lower elevations, is right in the middle of bear country.
CPW Roaring Fork Valley Wildlife Manager Kurtis Tesch said bear sightings have been down in the Aspen area around 70 percent compared with last year, but with the animals now entering hyperphagia, there’s definitely been a ramp up as they are starting to see more activity in the past two weeks.
On Tuesday, a bear reportedly attacked and killed a small dog in Aspen after the dog had been let out around 7 a.m. (See story on page A1.)
Tesch attributed the otherwise apparent decrease in activity and conflicts to the droughts this spring and throughout the summer, which has caused water deprived berry bushes and other food sources to produce sooner.
While the bear activity is down in 2018, Porras stressed the importance of being bear aware for the safety of the public and pets, and the bear itself.
“When you allow wildlife to eat out of your trash or you leave food out for them because you want to see them, you are teaching the bear it’s OK to be around people,” Porras explained. “You’re essentially sentencing the bear to death because they will become a serious threat to people.”
He suggests that if a bear comes into your yard, bang pots and pans to make it uncomfortable.
For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear, visit the CPW “Bear Aware” page at http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlifeWildBears.aspx.
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Gunnison County commissioners believe banning off-highway vehicles on the portion of the road the county manages would be counterproductive to a long-term solution that will need to involve the town of Marble and the White River National Forest.