In years when their natural foods are scarce, bears must search farther afield, which can bring them into contact with humans often with disastrous results.
Take Monday for example, said Patt Dorsey, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Durango.
A homeowner early Monday shot to death a bear that broke into his house in Pagosa Springs, and a bear was killed early Monday by a vehicle near the Glacier Club on U.S. Highway 550 north of Durango.
The Pagosa Springs homeowner discovered that a bear had ransacked his kitchen when he returned Sunday, wildlife officer Doug Purcell said.
The bear returned at 4 a.m. Monday and entered the house through a window, Purcell said. At that point, the owner fired on it with a handgun.
He declined to provide more details of the incident.
Each incident illustrates the risk bears take when they have to stay on the move to find food, Dorsey said.
I consider this a below-average year for natural food, Dorsey said. Its spotty, so instead of having a hillside full of acorns or choke cherries, a bear may eat some berries then head for an apple tree in a river bottom or a garbage can in a residential area.
Bears also break into houses, Dorsey said.
If homeowners are threatened, Section 33-3-106 (3) of the Colorado Revised Statutes allows them to trap or kill bears to prevent death, damage or injury to themselves, livestock, real property or motor vehicle, Dorsey said.
Threats from mountain lions or dogs also can be met with the same measures.
Dorsey said the death of the bear on Highway 550 was the second in two weeks. The earlier incident occurred in the Hermosa area.
A vehicle killed a cub only months out of the den in May 2011 on Florida Road near Chapman Hill.
Four bears were killed by vehicles around Pagosa Springs in July, she said.
Bears cross major highways during seasonal migrations and in search of food, water or a rest area, Dorsey said.