A wet spring and early summer giving rise to acorns and berries could make for fewer bears heading for neighborhood trash cans this fall.
So far, that seems to be the trend.
"We haven't had too many issues where we had to try to trap many bears," said Matt Thorpe, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
What his wildlife officers have seen corresponds to what Heather Johnson, a biologist with CPW, has found during the first four years of a study on bears and human development.
Most bears seem to associate human food with risk, and bears that seek human food during a drought year will not always seek it out if there are natural foods available, Johnson said.
She describes bears as "pretty sophisticated decision-makers."
But Johnson and the other researchers also found that there are some bears that never choose to seek human food and some that always go after human food.
She expects her findings will influence bear management within CPW.
"Putting a lot of bears down in those bad food years is not necessarily going to fix the problem," she said.
Perhaps, unsurprisingly, because it has been a good year for wild bear foods, CPW has put down only five bears in La Plata County, Thorpe said.
But it's difficult to put this number in context because CPW doesn't have an estimate of how many bears live in the region. Johnson hopes to be able to remedy that soon with her data.
Currently, CPW estimates that statewide, there are between 16,000 and 20,000 bears, said Joe Lewandowski, CPW spokesman in Durango.
"Bears are not endangered; they're thriving," he said.
Locally, there are plenty of anecdotes about bears feasting on trash, chickens, honey and other treats found around homes, said Bryan Peterson, director of Bear Smart Durango.
"It seems like they're everywhere," he said.
This year, 432 bear sightings and incidents in the county and Durango have been reported to Bear Smart Durango and the CPW office, Peterson said.
Out of all the sightings, there have been 194 reports of bears getting into trash.
Sometimes, once bears find a source of food, it can be tough to change their behavior, Peterson said. For example, there have been some local bears that have started chewing through trash cans.
"There are bear-resistant trash cans that work on grizzlies that are failing here," Peterson said.
Bear-resistant trash cans are an important step to keeping bears away from homes. Electric fences can also help deter bears from eating gardens, chickens, beehives, pigs and other food sources that can't be moved.
Bear Smart has helped with 13 fences this year, and the organization can provide $100 toward a fencing project to offset the cost.
"Done right, it's proven to be the most effective tool," Peterson said.
Over the years, Ed Young has worked to protect his chickens at his home on East Animas Road (County Road 250) from bears, foxes and hawks.
"If you are a chicken, you are at the bottom of the pecking order," he joked.
Bears have knocked down fences around his chicken yard and left claw marks on the coop. So this summer, he installed an electric fence and hasn't had a problem since.