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Living with Bears - Part 2
Living with Bears - Part 2
Bear in Road

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Colorado is Bear Country

A black bear sow and her cubs. Photo © John Derych; used by permission.Black bears have lived in the foothills and forests of Colorado since long before the pioneers arrived. Today black bears are trying to share space with an ever-growing human population. With many more people living and playing in bear country, human-bear encounters are on the rise. ​

Only People Can Prevent Problems with Bears

Black bears are curious, smart and very adaptable. They’re not fussy and will eat just about anything with calories. Bears want to get the most energy they can with the least amount of effort. Every bear’s goal is to get fat enough to live through the winter.

Bear Calorie CounterBlack bear walking through boulders. Photo © Estes Park News/Hazelton; used with permission.

  • Bird seed (7 lbs) = 12,180 calories
  • Dog Food (25 lbs) = 42,425 calories
  • Peanut Butter (28 oz) = 4,750 calories
  • Shortening (3 lbs) = 12,430 calories
  • Berries (1 lb) = 2,000 calories

Most conflicts between people and bears can be traced to easy-to-get-at human food, garbage, pet food, bird seed or other attractants. When people allow bears to find food, a bear’s natural drive to eat can overcome its wariness of humans.

Bears that get too comfortable around people can destroy property or even become a threat to human safety. Habituated bears must often be destroyed. Please don’t let bears die needlessly. Do your part to bear-proof your home and property, and help keep bears alive and wild.

Garbage Kills Bears

 

Much of what people throw away smells like food to a hungry bear. Standard metal or plastic trash cans won’t keep out bears. Once bears learn where it’s easy to get at the garbage, they’ll come back again and again.

Never leave trash or recyclables out overnight. Empty cans and boxes still smell like food. One study showed that simply putting trash out only on the morning of pick up cuts the chances of a bear visit from 70% to 2%.

Bear in a Dumpster. Photo © CPW/M. Seraphin.If you must leave trash outside, buy a bear-proof container, build a bear-proof enclosure or install an electric fence. To avoid attracting bears, clean con­tainers regularly with ammonia or bleach.

Bears that learn garbage = food sometimes come inside homes looking for more. Don’t make it easy for bears to visit; keep bear-accessible win­dows and doors in your home and garage locked.

Bird Feeders Kill Bears

Studies show that a big meal of tasty, nutritious seeds — a natural food for bears — is often the first reward a bear gets for exploring human places. Letting your bird feeders turn into bear feeders teaches bears that it’s safe to come close to people and homes looking for food. For bears, that can end up being a deadly lesson.

Bear helping itself to bird food. © Estes Park News/Hazelton; used with permission.We recommend not feeding birds during the months when bears are active.

Instead, use water features, plant­ings, nest boxes and flowers to attract birds. Use bird feeders only when bears are hibernating.

If you don’t want to stop feeding birds, hang your feeders at least ten feet off the ground and ten feet away from anything bears can climb.

Keep the area underneath feeders clean and free of bird seed and hulls, or switch to a hulled bird seed with no waste.

Never store bird seed outside, under your deck, or in a garage or shed a bear could break into. A 50-pound bag of bird seed has over 87,000 calories—a reward for the bear that is well worth the effort of breaking in.

Trash bags stored outside—bears can't resist checking them out. Photo © CDOW/A. Ryel.Help Keep Bears Wild

Get in the habit of being bear-responsible. It’s like recycling — at first it’s a little extra effort, but soon it becomes a better way to live. You can be proud you’re helping to make Colorado a better place for people and bears.

  • Don’t feed bears, and don’t put out food for other wildlife that attracts bears. 
  • Be responsible about trash and bird feeders.
  • Burn food off barbeque grills and clean after each use.
  • Keep all bear-accessible windows and doors closed and locked, including home, garage and vehicle doors.
  • Don’t leave food, trash, coolers, air fresheners or anything that smells in your vehicle.
  • Pick fruit before it ripens, and clean up fallen fruit.
  • Talk to your neighbors about doing their part to be bear responsible.

If You See a Bear 
If a bear comes near your home, do your best to chase it away. Yell, blow a whistle, clap your hands, and make other loud noises. But never approach a bear.

We're Here to Help

Through Bear Aware

Bear Aware volunteers can answer questions, offer practical advice and even make house calls. They also do educational programs and staff informational booths at events. To find a Bear Aware volunteer in your area or join or form a Bear Aware team, call your local office.

Colorado is fortunate to have Linda Masterson, author of Living with Bears: A Practical Guide to Bear Country as one of our Bear Aware Team volunteers. Please visit Living with Bears: A Practical Guide to Bear Country​ for more information about this book and how to live responsibly in bear country.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Offices

Offices are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For after-hours emergencies, contact the Colorado State Patrol or your local Sheriff’s Department.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Headquarters Administrative Offices
6060 Broadway
Denver, CO 80216
(303) 297-1192

See the CPW Contact​ page for region and area office contact information.​