Aug. 9, 2021
CPW volunteers create special ‘Unwelcome Mats’ to help keep bears wild
By Joey Livingston
CPW Customer Service Representative
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – When friends come to visit, it’s a tradition for people to put out their welcome mats as a friendly greeting.
But what if your guest is unwanted? Specifically, what if it’s a black bear intent on pushing in your door or window to rummage your house, garage or chicken coop for food?
That’s when Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends putting out an “unwelcome mat.”
On Monday, a team of CPW volunteers led by Jeanette Lara, CPW’s Southeast Region volunteer coordinator, held an annual work day to build unwelcome mats designed to deter bears trying to enter homes and properties in the region.
Unwelcome mats are simply boards with screws or nails protruding from them every few inches. They are like a pesky tack strip that you might step on under carpet. They hurt and make a little prick, but leave no injury or long-term damage to the bear.
They are designed to keep bears from accessing human food sources like trash or livestock. Unwelcome mats can be placed near entrances and storage areas so that when bears step on the mats, they get a quick pinch and a painful reminder to stay out of the area.
CPW wildlife officers issue these mats to the public to prevent bear-related conflicts. They are means of hazing nuisance bears without an officer having to lay hands on a bear, thus giving it a “strike” that could lead to it being euthanized the next time it gets into trouble.
Bears are very smart animals that respond to rewards and deterrents. The biggest reward bears get is food and the biggest deterrent is pain. When people deter the bears and keep food sources secured, fewer bears end up euthanized.
Most human-bear conflicts in Colorado originate from human-provided food. It might be unsecured garbage cans or refrigerators left accessible by open garage doors or in houses with open windows and doors on the ground levels.
Bears are drawn to garbage cans, garages and homes by the smell of garbage, pet food, barbecue grills with scraps of food and aromas coming from kitchen windows. And bears can pick up a scent from over a mile away. Trash, bird seed, pet food, chickens, bee hives and uncleaned grills can act as a dinner bell attracting any bears in your area.
But each mat takes time and energy to build. Imagine a sheet of plywood with nails or screws every couple inches on a grid? That’s where CPW’s Bear Aware volunteers come in.
“This is just another reason we so value our Bear Aware teams in El Paso and Teller counties,” Lara said. “Not only do they play a huge role in educating the public on how to avoid human-bear conflicts, they come out and work in August heat building unwelcome mats.
“Both jobs are equally important. We need our volunteers to teach people about securing their food sources. And we need these unwelcome mats. They are wonderful tools to deter bears. And we are lucky to have dedicated volunteers to help us keep bears wild.”
For more information on living with wildlife and bearproofing your home, please visit: https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlifeBears2.aspx
CPW relies heavily on volunteers to perform a variety of important tasks at its 42 state parks and 350 wildlife areas and state trust lands. Volunteers also make major contributions to efforts of biologist and working with aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.
Anyone interested in becoming a part of our volunteer program please contact Lara by email at: Jeanette.Lara@state.co.us
Photos courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife
To deter nuisance bears from entering a door, window or gate, Colorado Parks and Wildlife often deploys "unwelcome mats" made of sheets of plywood with nails or screws protruding from the surface. They hurt and make a little prick, but leave no injury or long-term damage to the bear. CPW volunteers on area Bear Aware teams made a stack of the mats Monday.