Bears are waking up around Durango, and it’s time to start taking precautionary measures to reduce human-bear conflicts, wildlife officials say.
“It’s that time of year,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joe Lewandowski.
Bears usually start emerging from their dens during the first weeks of April. But wildlife officials mark April 15 on their calendars as the day bear activity is typically expected to pick up, Lewandowski said.
Male bears are usually the first to start stirring around town, he said. Female bears, especially those nursing cubs, tend to stay in their dens a few weeks longer to conserve energy and wait until there are more available food sources in the forest.
Already, there have been some bear spottings around Durango, both in town and along East Animas Road (County Road 250), Lewandowski said.
La Plata County resident Jocelyn Skill snapped a photo of a bear climbing a hillside near County Road 201. She said the bear has been eating a deer carcass on the side of the road.
Not much natural food is available this time of year, other than grass, Lewandowski said, so it is imperative that people lock up their trash and take down their bird feeders.
“We like to remind people to start taking precautions right now,” he said.
By far, one of the main driving forces in human-bear conflicts is allowing bears easy access to food in town, especially sources left out in the open, like garbage.
In an effort to address the issue, more than 1,000 bear-resistant garbage cans were delivered to Durango homes from 2011 through 2016. In 2018, another 600 bear-resistant cans were delivered on the south end of downtown Durango.
Levi Lloyd, director of operations for the city of Durango, said about 600 cans are expected to be delivered in the next few weeks to homes in the Crestview neighborhood, as well as another 125 to 150 cans available for homes outside the area.
But bear-resistant trash cans are effective only if they are locked, something most Durango residents don’t do, a Fort Lewis College study determined this year.
In a student-led survey, only 40 percent of trash cans surveyed in residential areas were properly locked in an area known as “the grid” from East Second Avenue to East Ninth Avenue, from First Street to 12th Street.
Bryan Peterson with Bear Smart Durango could not immediately be reached for comment Monday morning.
In a previous interview, Peterson said it is possible residents were lulled into complacency last year as bears stayed mostly out of town and kept to forests where food was plentiful. But that’s no reason to slack off in making progress, he said.
“The key is to not wait for these bad bear seasons,” Peterson said. “You should do the bulk of work in good years ... when you’re not dealing with bears running all over the place. That’s proactive as opposed to reactive.”
Matt Thorpe, wildlife manager for CPW in Durango, said it is important for residents to report unwanted bear activity in their neighborhoods.
“People are afraid of calling, thinking bears will get shot, but the sooner they call us about these issues, there’s things we can do to avoid it becoming a bigger issue,” he said.