DENVER — The wildlife in Colorado is a reason many people live here — and also why many more visit the state. It’s a fun — and sometimes thrilling — sight to see bighorn sheep, elk, and even bears up close and personal.
“We consider our wildlife in Colorado a value,” said Jennifer Churchill, spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
But seeing these animals too close to home is not usually a good thing. Colorado Parks and Wildlife says 100 bears are euthanized, and 100 more are relocated every year in Colorado. Many times these bears have become addicted to food sources in towns and neighborhoods.
“Our wildlife needs to stay wild — if we want to have it for future generations, we have to make sure that we are keeping these animals wild, and not letting them become addicted to human provided food sources,” Churchill said. “When our bears really want to live in our alleys and our streets, that’s really dangerous.”
Front Range communities often find themselves in the spotlight for these types of bear encounters. Just last year, there were a record four bears euthanized in Boulder alone. This led to a new trash ordinance for 10,000 of Boulder’s homes.
“We have an ordinance that requires trash and curbside compost to be secure from bears,” said Valerie Matheson, Boulder’s urban wildlife coordinator. “It seems like the bears that are put down, it’s avoidable, and it’s something that we could be more proactive about.”
Other communities like Estes Park have tried a more face-to-face approach, with a bear education task force. The task force asks restaurants and lodges in the area to help protect bears by securing trash in bear-resistant dumpsters, and also asks them to help educate visitors about keeping food out of cars.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends a few simple things all people in bear country can do:
- Keep trash in bear resistant trash cans, or leave it inside the house until trash pick up
- Bears love birdseed, so during times when bears are most active, replace bird feeders with bird-attracting flowers
- Dog food is a big attractant for bears, so keep it secure inside
- Remove trash and food from your car–bears have been known to break in and destroy vehicles
- Clean off your BBQ grill after each use.
“Anything that smells, anything that is even kind of funky, they are attracted to that,” Churchill said.
There are many companies that sell tested, bear-resistant trash containers. A full list can be found on the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s website.