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Bear-human conflict and the risks it poses

via Colorado Parks and Wildlife

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, it's estimated that the state is home to between 17 to 20, 000 black bears. While black bears don't normally pose a threat to humans, improper disposal of food and trash increases the likelihood of dangerous encounters. Being bear aware protects both them and us .Here's David Boyd, Public Affairs Officer for the White River National Forest.

"Once a bear figures out, oh, that's a good place to look for food, a campground or, you know, buy a person's house or something like that. Every single time they see that, they're gonna check it out. Prevention is the best approach to managing bear human conflict."

Taking precautions in bear country involves following a protocol that removes or minimizes incentives for a bear to come into the area. Boyd says that many developed campgrounds have bear proof containers, but if one isn't available, a hard sided vehicle will also work. Storing food or trash in a vehicle like a jeep could easily lead to property damage and the bear getting fed anyway. A bear could smell food cooking from up to a mile away, and even empty wrappers and containers must be stored properly to avoid attracting a hungry bear.

"Removal is kind of a first option, but then, like, where do you take them? You know, they're not going to use those same skills they've just, just learned. You know, from a campground somewhere else. And another thing to keep in mind is it tends to get progressively worse. So if you've done something and they've been able to get a little bit of trash or a little bit of food for you, you're setting up the next people that are coming into that, um, campground, um, you know, for, for a problem with that bear too. There are these campground bears, neighborhood bears that have to be put down just because they become too aggressive. Once they're like that, they just don't change and it just, it gets progressively worse."

Boyd says that Colorado Parks and Wildlife sometimes has success turning younger bears away from human food sources, but it's never a guarantee.

"We have had some problems in some of our campgrounds already in the Aspen Sopris Ranger District. It's a problem every year on the White River National Forest. Once they start getting really boiled, they'll come in in the middle of the day and [00:02:00] grab stuff. Once they know the campground is the place to go, you know, they're going to hit it every time. Sometimes they're kind of on like a circuit. So it might not be every night, it might be every three nights or every four nights they come in. And what we run into with some of our campgrounds is they're actually, from a bear's perspective, they're not from neighborhoods in Aspen or Carbondale or somewhere. And so, they also learn from all of us that live out here."

Being bear aware and taking responsibility is one of the many unique facets of life on the Western slope If you encounter a bear b do not run. Remember to never purposefully feed or approach a bear, report sightings to park rangers and check your local parks the CPW website for information on bears and safety.

Lily Jones is a recent graduate of Mississippi State University, with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and a concentration in Broadcasting and Digital Journalism. At WMSV, MSU's college radio station, Jones served as the Public Affairs and Social Media Coordinator. In her spare time Lily likes to go to the gym and watercolor.