Hibernation? No, procrastination
December 15, 2010
ASPEN – Tourists aren’t the only ones coming out of the woodwork this holiday season.
Colorado Division of Wildlife officials say a few black bears have been spotted in residential areas of Pitkin County, foraging for food at a time when most bruins have gone into hibernation.
“Our officer has gotten more calls in the last two weeks than he did all summer,” said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton on Tuesday.
Residents in such areas as Woody Creek, Twining Flats, Snowmass Village and Maroon Court (located off Highway 82 across from Truscott Place) have reported bears on the prowl for food.
The reason for the spike in bear calls, said Hampton and Kevin Wright, wildlife manager for the Aspen district, is because some local residents have left unsecured trash bins out. Bird feeders seem to be a draw for the bears, too, they noted.
Earlier this month in Snowmass Village, Wright said, a bear was clawing at a residence’s kitchen vent.
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“He wasn’t trying to break the door or anything,” Wright said. “He just wouldn’t go away.”
Most of the bears appear to be younger, Wright said. There has also been an adult sow in the West Buttermilk area that’s been hitting up residential trash containers.
“This is strange and out of the normal,” Hampton said. “Typically these bears are asleep at this time of the year.”
But, as Wright explained, so long as some bears can find accessible food in trash bins, they’ll put off their annual retreat to their winter caves. So far this month, none of the bears have been tagged or relocated, Wright said.
This past summer provided ample natural food for bears in the Pitkin County area; as a result, bruins didn’t pose the same problems of the summer of 2009, when a number of human-bear conflicts occurred because of a lack of natural food sources.
In fact, while the DOW had to kill 30 nuisance bears in Pitkin County in 2009, just one has been put down this year, Hampton said.
Carrington Brown, Pitkin County’s code-enforcement officer, said he has recently visited with some residents who have not complied with the secured trash container ordinance. He said he first warns them, but if the noncompliance persists, violators are fined $350 the first time and $500 the second time.
“Folks out there who had the inappropriate trash cans are, of course, surprised that the bears aren’t in hibernation,” Brown said, adding that “we’re all about education and asking people for their cooperation.”