DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife set up a monitoring system for bear activity around the state in 2019 and since its inception, 18,351 reports have come in but a small percentage have resulted in euthanization.

Bear sighting and conflict reports increased by 16% from 2021 to 2022 with a total of 4,282 last year. While bear reports were up from last year, they were down 1.3% from the previous two years. 

CPW said about one-third of the reports are linked back to the animals getting into trash. Other attractors were beehives, livestock, crops and vehicles (which most likely had food in them that lured the bear).

“In some circumstances, wildlife officers can attempt to relocate bears out of conflict areas to alleviate safety concerns or before that animal’s behavior escalates to a dangerous level which may require euthanization,” CPW said. “In the last four years, CPW has relocated 272 bears from sites of conflict, but wildlife officers stress relocation is not a fix-all solution.”

Here’s a breakdown of how bears that posed problems were handled over the past eight years:

2022: 94 euthanized, 59 relocated
2021: 66 euthanized, 51 relocated
2020: 158 euthanized, 118 relocated
2019: 101 euthanized, 44 relocated
2018: 79 euthanized, 24 relocated 
2017: 190 euthanized, 109 relocated
2016: 66 euthanized, 16 relocated
2015: 115 euthanized, 40 relocated

“We need help from local communities to develop strategies to secure garbage and other attractants across bear habitat,” Kristin Cannon, deputy regional manager for CPW’s Northeast Region said. “Ultimately, it will also require individuals to take some responsibility and follow proper guidelines on living appropriately with bears to protect them.”

Deadly bear attacks rare in Colorado

According to CPW, there have only been four documented deadly bear attacks in Colorado, although human-bear conflicts have increased in the past few decades.

July 25, 1971: A honeymooning couple was attacked while tent camping near Grand Lake in Grand County. A large older bear entered the tent, injured the woman and pulled the 31-year-old man away from the campsite. The man was killed. The bear was later found and destroyed. Further examination of the black bear found that it had worn, abscessed teeth and a plastic bucket in its stomach.

Aug. 10, 1993: A 24-year-old Buena Vista man was attacked and killed after a male bear broke into a camper 20 miles north of Cotopaxi in Fremont County, presumably in a search for food. The camper tried to stop the attack by shooting at the bear, but it only injured the animal. The bear was injured by a bullet that grazed its rib cage, possibly increasing the intensity of the attack. A 250-pound, very aggressive male black bear with a fresh bullet wound to the rib cage was trapped and destroyed six days later. A necropsy on the bear revealed human remains in its digestive system.

Aug. 7, 2009: A 74-year-old woman was killed and partially eaten by a bear or bears at her home near Ouray, in Ouray County. As sheriff’s deputies were investigating the scene, they were approached by a 250-pound, 5-year-old male black bear that exhibited aggressive behavior. Deputies shot and killed the bear after it approached them and showed no fear of people. The results of the necropsy on that bear were inconclusive as to whether it was involved in the original incident. Early the next morning, federal wildlife officers killed a 394-pound, mature male black bear that approached the home and exhibited aggressive behavior. A necropsy on the large older boar revealed human remains and remnants of clothing in its digestive system. A CPW investigation determined the victim illegally fed bears through a fence in her yard.

April 30, 2021: A 39-year-old woman was found dead in Trimble after she had taken her dogs for a walk. Tracking dogs found a female black bear with two cubs nearby. The bears were euthanized and taken to CPW’s Wildlife Health Lab in Fort Collins for a necropsy where human remains were found in two of the three bears’ systems.

Non-deadly bear attacks are fairly rare as well but some notable ones are of bears getting into homes. A 54-year-old man survived an attack by a bear inside a home in Aspen in the summer of 2020. He said the bear knew how to open doors and just let itself in. At some point, the bear swiped the man with his paw leaving severe cuts on his face. 

A separate bear attack in Manitou Springs occurred the night before the Aspen incident in 2020. CPW said a mother and her cubs charged a woman, knocked her down and clawed her back.

Be bear aware and reduce the possibility of conflicts

CPW offers guidelines for homeowners, campers and residents living in bear country to reduce bear attractions and keep themselves and those around them safe.

It has been widely misunderstood that black bears are the color of Colorado’s only bear species but in fact, that is the species’ name. Many black bears in the state are blonde, cinnamon or brown in color.

Bear-proofing your home:

  • Keep garbage in a well-secured location. Only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.
  • Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them free of food odors: ammonia is effective.
  • Keep garage doors closed, Do not leave pet food or stock feed outside.
  • Use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.
  • Bird feeders are a major source of bear/human conflicts. Attract birds naturally with flowers and water baths. Do not hang bird feeders from April 15 to Nov. 15.
  • Don’t allow bears to become comfortable around your house. If you see one, haze it by yelling at it, throwing things at it and making loud noises to scare it off.
  • Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.
  • Clean the grill after each use, clean-up thoroughly after cookouts.
  • If you have fruit trees, don’t allow the fruit to rot on the ground.
  • Talk to your neighbors and kids about being Bear Aware.

Cars, traveling and campsites:

  • Lock your doors when you’re away from home and at night.
  • Keep the bottom floor windows of your house closed when you’re not at home.
  • Do not keep food in your vehicle; roll up windows and lock the doors of your vehicles.
  • When car-camping, secure all food and coolers in a locked vehicle.
  • Keep a clean camp, whether you’re in a campground or in the backcountry.
  • When camping in the backcountry, hang food 100 feet or more from the campsite; don’t bring any food into your tent.
  • Cook food well away from your tent; wash dishes thoroughly.

Protecting your chickens, bees, livestock:

  • Keep chickens, bees and livestock in a fully covered enclosure, especially at night. 
  • Construct electric fencing when possible.
  • Don’t store livestock feed outside.
  • Keep enclosures clean to minimize animal odors. 
  • Hang rags soaked in ammonia and/or Pine-Sol around the enclosure as a scent deterrent.