Wildlife experts share tips to stay bear-aware during camping season

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DENVER -- Just days after a family was attacked by a black bear while camping, experts are offering tips to keep wildlife away during camping season.

Wildlife experts said bears in particular are going to explore all food sources, so having something as small as a tube of toothpaste or even a granola bar could attract them.

Like many in the summer months, Judy Jacobsen, heads to the high country to escape reality. She surrounds herself with nature and enjoys talking in the sights and sounds of wildlife.

“This is their habitat. You’re just a guest here,” Jacobsen said.

But even this seasoned camper made a mistake.

“Our first night here we accidentally left out the garbage and in the morning it had been gone through by something with very sharp teeth,” Jacobsen said.

That’s why wildlife experts say you must keep a clean campsite.

“Bears are inherently driven by their stomachs. The greatest problem that we see is poor trash habits. People leave food out, they don’t properly secure it,” said Justin Olson, district wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.

Just days ago, a family in the Red Feather Lakes area was trampled by a bear while sleeping in their tent.

“The tent here as an example -- to the cooking area, you’re looking at 100 yards. That’s generally a good distance,” Olson said.

Parks and Wildlife experts say do not bring anything with an odor inside tents, including snacks, scented toiletries, even some bug sprays.

“Also you don’t want to sleep in the clothes that you cook in the night before,” Olson said.

Pack bear spray just in case there's a close encounter.

“Aim for the head or the face area, and discharge a fog,” Olson said.

Following these steps can not only make for a great camping trip, but it can also prevent a wildlife officials from having to put down a bear for acting aggressively in pursuit of food.

“It can save a bear’s life,” Olson said. “You have to be smart when you’re camping. Safety first."

Olson urges campers to put food in a secure bear-resistant container. He said it can hang from a tree.

“Ten, 15, 20 feet up. If you hang it, it needs to be out far enough from the main center trunk,” Olson said.

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