Be WildSmart about Bears

Colorado is Bear Country
Black bears have lived in the foothills and forests of Colorado since long before the pioneers arrived. Today 8,000 to 12,000 black bears are trying to share space with an ever-growing human population. With many more people living and playing in bear country, human-bear encounters are on the rise. Black Bears hibernate each winter from late October or early November until spring; emerging in late April or early May.
Colorado Bears Have People Problems
Every year bears attracted to human food sources damage property, vehicles, and even homes. Bears don’t know they’re doing anything wrong. They’re just following their super-sensitive noses to the most calories they can find. Bears that find food around homes, campgrounds, and communities often lose their natural wariness of people. Even though black bears are not naturally aggressive and seldom attack or injure people, they are still strong, powerful animals. A bear intent on getting a meal could injure someone who gets in its way. Every year bears that have become too comfortable around people have to be destroyed.

Read the CPW report on Human-Bear ConflictsCPW

Bears Need Your Help
The Colorado Division of Wildlife is charged with protecting and preserving the state’s wildlife. Every time CPW must destroy a bear, it’s not just the bear that loses. We all lose a little piece of the wildness that makes Colorado so special.

Garbage Kills Bears
BearInDumpster2_SeraphinMuch of what people throw away smells like food to a hungry bear. Standard metal or plastic trash cans won’t keep out bears. Once bears learn where it’s easy to get at the garbage, they’ll come back again and again.

Never leave trash or recyclables out overnight. Empty cans and boxes still smell like food. One study showed that simply putting trash out the morning of pick up cuts the chances of a bear visit from 70% to 2%.

If you must leave trash outside, buy a bear-proof container, build a bear-proof enclosure or install an electric fence. To avoid attracting bears, clean containers regularly with ammonia or bleach.

Bears that learn garbage = food sometimes come inside homes looking for more. Don’t make it easy for bears to visit; keep bear-accessible windows and doors in your home and garage locked.

Prevent bears from discovering the ease and regularity of your garbage by keeping trash in an enclosed area and/or in wildlife-resistant containers.  Relocated bears, those that authorities relocate after visiting a homeowner’s site twice in a season, rarely survive the move. Read the CPW flyer Bear-proofing Your Trash.

  • County residents Click here to download a guide to wildlife-resistant containers available.
  • Residents in Durango Click here for information on wildlife and garbage within the city and how to request a wildlife-resistant container.

Bird Feeders Kill Bears
bearbird3bStudies show that a big meal of tasty, nutritious seeds — natural food for bears — is often the first reward a bear gets for exploring human places. Letting your bird feeders turn into bear feeders teaches bears that it’s safe to come close to people and homes looking for food. And for bears that can be a deadly lesson.

We recommend not feeding birds during the months when bears are active. Instead, use water features, plant­ings, nest boxes, and flowers to attract birds. Use bird feeders only when bears are hibernating. 

If you don’t want to stop feeding birds, you need to hang your feeders at least ten feet off the ground and ten feet away from anything bears can climb. 

Keep the area underneath feeders clean and free of bird seed and hulls, or switch to a hulled bird seed with no waste. 

Never store bird seed outside, under your deck, or in a garage or shed a bear could break into. A 50-pound bag of bird seed has over 87,000 calories—a reward for the bear and well worth the effort of breaking in.

Practice additional Wild Smart ways:

  • Obtain a wildlife-resistant or wildlife-proof trash container

  • City residents should call 375-4800 for information on bear-proofing their trash.

  • County residents should call their waste provider

  • Bring trash out only on the morning of collection

  • Remove fruit from trees prior to ripening

  • Keep pet food and feeding indoors

  • Periodically clean trash cans with ammonia solution

More Information

  • LWAB is a partner with Bear Smart Durango in educating the public about living with bears in La Plata County. More information on ways to avoid conflicts is available at Bear Smart Durango    BearSmart_Logo2

  • The Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) also provides a wealth of information on living in bear country on their website. Read the CPW flyer on bear proofing your home.