Author Archives: deannaks

Keeping Our Friends Close, But Not Too Close…

Digger, a bear at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, who was captured in Montana for being a nuisance

Digger, a bear at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, who was captured in Montana for being a nuisance

Living in Colorado we often have to deal with wildlife encounters. Personally I have witnessed many wild animals simply roaming through my backyard as they look for food and go about their daily routines. Once my father walked in on a bear that was in our garage. And, although I love seeing animals as much as I can, we have to question if this is really a good thing. The case is different for every animal, but, as we encroach on their habitats, we need to be aware of what our presence is doing to the animals, and try to take some preventative measures to keep both us and them safe and healthy.

Bears have become a big problem for people because we are living closer and closer to their natural habitat. Living on a mountain I have seen my fair share of bears throughout my neighborhood, and, in seeing them so often, I have also witnessed how naughty they can be. Bears are notorious for exhibiting various kinds of “nuisance” behaviors that can get them into a lot of trouble, and it should be up to us to try and prevent this as much as possible so that they stay out of trouble and we stay safe. Bears that exhibit this behavior not only put us at risk, but also themselves, because when they are caught doing this, often times animal departments are instructed to “take care” of them, which is not good for bear populations if this behavior continues to escalate.

Bears are omnivores and therefore like to get their paws into just about anything so that they can get a meal [2]. And with us living increasingly closer to their habitats, they are discovering that they can use our resources for food as well. Since they are such smart creatures they can get their food from all kinds of sources—garbage, bird feeders, compost piles, pet food, barbecues, gardens, orchards, and anything else they can be intuitive enough to get into [1].   So taking all of this into consideration, if we wish to help bears remain wild and safe from being captured due to becoming a nuisance, it is up to us to try to be a little more bear-conscious of our homes and take some preventative measures.

The first step to this is to try and keep anything that would attract bears inside your garage or in the house. Keeping bird feeders high or on bear proof poles that they can’t reach and not overfilling them helps if you will be hanging them during bear season [1].   Keeping garbage and recycling bins inside is another important step, and don’t put them outside until right before they are supposed to be picked up [3]. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have seen trash cans turned over and the contents strewn through a yard because they were left out too long, or overnight and bears have gone through them. This can also be a very detrimental thing for bears. This is the number one attractant, and letting this become a problem means that these bears are often captured and sometimes killed because they have become a danger to humans because they frequent the area too much [1].

Many cities have employed the use of bear-proof trashcans in public areas that have had a generally positive effect. A study done in Florida reported a decrease in bear sightings and bear-human interactions once the trashcans were employed, as well as a positive attitude from local residents about the trash cans [4]. This kind of technology can be really useful when there is no way around having attractants out, and it is these kinds of solutions that need to be sought after when dealing with problems such as these. We need to work toward co-existing a little better with our natural world. And although humans don’t always care very much about protecting the animals of our world, if we can work toward better solutions that work for both parties, things have a much greater potential of getting better.

-Deanna Sinclair

Sources:

  1. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/info/bearaware/prevent_problems.html
  2. http://icwdm.org/handbook/carnivor/black_bears.asp
  3. http://www.bearsmart.com/live/overview/
  4. Barrett, et al., “Testing Bear Resistant Trash Cans in Residential Areas of Florida.” Southeastern Naturalist. 13(2014):26-39. Web.