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 DENVER, (KDVR) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife responded to nearly 5,000 human-bear conflicts in 2020. The leading cause? Unsecured trash. 

Of the 4,943 bear reports in 2020, more than 1/3 (1,661) involved trash. 

“They will do everything they can, to do the least amount of effort, to get the most calories they can,” says CPW spokesperson Jason Clay. 

Clay says bears are naturally afraid of humans, but lose that fear over time when given an easy food source, like trash or birdseed. 

“They have learned to use humans as a crutch to get easy calories,” he says. “So as a bear comes up and gets a bird feeder from your backyard, it loses a bit of its natural fear. It teaches itself that it is OK to go near homes.”

Unfortunately, Clay says 120 bears had to be euthanized in 2020. He says many had completely lost their fear of humans, and were found inside homes across the state. 

In 2020, 362 bears reportedly forced entry into Colorado homes or garages.

“The No. 1 cause of bears being put down is bears breaking into homes,” says Clay. “A bear is a lot easier to change its behaviors at the first sign of conflict, rather than when things escalate.”

If you live in bear country, Clay recommends taking your trash out the morning of collection, and never leaving it out overnight. 

Additionally, make sure garage doors and closed and locked, ensuring bears can’t get inside.

“We get so many reports of people with open garages,” says Clay. “Some simple steps around our home of securing attractants, is really the best place we can start.”