Spring has arrived and many signs of the changing seasons are evident here in Park County. Many of the migratory bird species have made their debuts for the new year. The formidable ice that had gripped South Park’s reservoirs has lost its battle with the longer days and warmer temperatures of April.
If you look closely at the aspens, you’ll notice catkins and buds beginning to emerge, groggily stretching themselves out like a dog after a long nap by the wood stove. Keep your eyes peeled for one of the earliest growing wildflowers in our area, the pasque flower.
The furry residents of South Park are also taking notice of spring’s arrival. Bears will be resuming activity in no time, and therefore it is time for us to remind ourselves how to keep bears wild and reduce conflicts with them around our properties. The solution is two part: removing attractants and hazing bears that show up.
If a bear visited your property and accessed a food source last year, the same bear will more than likely visit within a few weeks of waking up. Their memories are incredible and that is why it is so important to make sure no attractants are available when bears are awake.
Please remove bird feeders and secure trash, pet food, grain and anything else that remotely smells like food. If a bear does not receive a food reward on your property early in the season, it reduces the likelihood of conflict throughout the year. Taking these steps to “bear-proof” your property helps us keep both bears and people safe.
If you have chickens or bees, electric fencing is by far the best tool to keep bears from getting access to them. There are great videos and resources online that give directions on how to build electric fencing to keep bears out. The supplies needed are not hard to acquire and pay off mightily when the first bear shows up at your coup. Electric fencing should also be used around pens for other small livestock like goats and pigs.
The second component of reducing bear conflict is hazing. Some people ask why “being mean to a bear” is necessary. Simply put, hazing the bear and re-instilling a fear of humans will likely save that bear’s life. If humans allow a bear to become bold around them, the behavior of the bear often escalates to the point that it becomes a danger. Euthanizing animals is far and away the worst part of my job and I plead that you help us in trying to keep bears wild.
Hazing is a form of aversive conditioning where the bear receives negative stimuli which get associated with the specific location and humans in general. We want to make our properties uncomfortable places for bears. If you see a bear on your property, yell at it, blow a boat horn, bang pots and pans, etc. If a bear is getting close enough to people or homes, bear spray is a very effective hazing technique.
Several homeowners in my district have been able to spray bears on their decks from inside their home by sticking the can of bear spray through a partially opened window. In some instances, we will suggest purchasing a paintball gun, as this has proven to be a very effective hazing device.
Lastly, please notify Colorado Parks and Wildlife immediately if you are experiencing bear conflict this spring. CPW can help by giving more detailed suggestions on bear proofing your property.
We also have other hazing tools at our disposal that can help solve the issue. Your local wildlife officers (and the bears) thank you for doing your part.