It’s dinnertime before sleepytime for bruins |

It’s dinnertime before sleepytime for bruins

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
A bear sits in a tree in Canyon Creek near Glenwood Springs last week. Eating is now a full-time job for bears preparing for the winter. (Courtesy Andy Baumert)

With leaves turning and temperatures dropping, black bears are sniffing out food like it’s their job.A roast chicken in a trash Dumpster here, some leftover pizza there. Maybe dog food left outside, or golden apples that have ripened and fallen to the ground.Bears are coming into town for food even more this year after a late frost that killed off summer berry crops in certain areas, and a summer drought that hindered the fall acorn crop. It’s been one of the worst years for bear-human conflicts since the record year of 2002, said Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

The DOW has seen an increase in bear nuisance calls since September. Bears are now spending most of their time eating 20,000 to 30,000 calories a day preparing for winter hibernation, Hampton said.One determined bear had to be put down recently after being relocated and traveling 65 miles back to Grand Junction, Hampton said. “Prior to hibernation, the bears are in a hyperphagia stage,” Hampton said. “Hyperphagia is a period where bears are spending about 20 hours a day eating, and the other four hours resting.” He said hyperphagia – when bears eat about five times as much as normal – usually begins about three or four weeks in advance of bears entering their dens for the winter. It varies with weather, but sows and cubs will den in mid-October, while boars or adult male bears will den in mid-November.

“The weather cools off. The leaves start to change and the bears get hungry,” Hampton said. “This is really the critical time of year for people to be thinking of things they can do to prevent bear conflicts.”This year was on pace to meet the record 55 bears put down statewide in 2002, but activity in the past few weeks seems to have slowed, with about 45 bears estimated to have been put down statewide so far, Hampton said. Overall, these instances have climbed over past years, largely the result of increasing human population, development and recreation. But the statewide bruin population of about 8,000 to 12,000 black bears has held steady for around 20 years.In spite of an increase in nuisance calls – like bears getting into human trash – the DOW is actually doing less relocating and putting down since early September, Hampton said. There could be thousands of possible reasons, he added, but it probably has to do with the nature of bears and how they’re more on the move now more than they were earlier in the season.

The DOW follows a two-strike policy: it will relocate a bear that is consistently becoming a nuisance one time, then put it down if it continues to cause problems. Aggressive bears may be killed without being relocated.The DOW has issued only two citations to people in the Roaring Fork Valley area and the area from New Castle to Vail this year. The state statute the DOW’s citations fall under deal more with biological and hunting regulatory factors and are given only after a warning.Glenwood Springs police have cited four or five people under the city’s bear ordinance for leaving trash out this season. The low number is the result of most people being responsive to warnings; the most consistent problems are found in multifamily residential developments like apartment complexes or trailer parks, according to police Chief Terry Wilson.