Bears are finding easy sources of food and that’s causing major conflict issues in towns and subdivisions throughout the San Luis Valley. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are urging home and landowners to eliminate all attractants from residential areas.

“People are leaving food and garbage in areas that are easily accessible for bears and that’s causing some significant problems,” said Rick Basagoitia, area wildlife manager for the San Luis Valley.

Bears have broken into buildings, killed livestock and damaged property in the Crestone, South Fork, Creede and San Luis areas. The problems will continue, and probably get worse, if people don’t take care of these food attractants

Some of the major problems:

Bird feeders — Birds do not need to be fed during the summer so take down any feeders until mid-November. Bird feeders are a huge attractant for bears. Once they learn that feeders provide a lot of food, they won’t stop tearing them down.

Pet food — Pet food holds strong aromas and can draw bears in from miles around. Don’t store pet food outside or in unsecured buildings. After feeding your pet, rinse out the dish and store it inside.

Small livestock — Bears have been killing chickens, goats and other small animals kept by small agricultural producers. Bears can smell livestock feed and pick up the scent of these animals from far away. If you keep small livestock, make sure the animals are kept in a secure building at night, or that the pen is completely covered and built solidly. Parks and Wildlife can provide information about building an electrified enclosure.

Garbage — Only put out garbage the morning of pick-up or secure it in a bear-proof can or dumpster. Homeowners’ Associations should consider centralizing trash areas in a location than can be secured with an enclosure.

“It’s the responsibility of the property owner to remove items that are attracting bears,” Basagoitia said. “Homeowners and campers will be ticketed and may be required to appear in court for failing to take remedial action to remove items that are attracting black bears.”

People must be part of the solution with bear conflicts.

“If property owners want help in eliminating attractants, district wildlife officers will assist them. If they show no willingness to clean up, the agency will not be available to take care of the mess,” Basagoitia said.

If bears do not find sources of food they’ll continue moving to where they can, which is into the wild lands of the San Luis Valley.

Here are some tips to help keep bears out of trouble:

  • Keep garbage in a well-secured location; only put out garbage on the morning of pickup. Clean garbage cans with ammonia regularly to keep them odor free.
  • If you don’t have secure storage, put items that might become smelly into the freezer until trash day.
  • Don’t leave pet food or stock feed outside.
  • Bird feeders should be brought in at this time of year — birds don’t need to be fed during the summer.
  • If you have bird feeders: clean up beneath them, bring them in at night, and hang them high so that they’re inaccessible to bears.
  • Don’t compost. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food — and they’ll eat anything.
  • Allow grills to burn for a couple of minutes after cooking to burn off grease and to eliminate odors. Clean the grill after each use.
  • If you have fruit trees, pick fruit before it gets too ripe. Don’t allow fruit to rot on the ground

To talk to a wildlife officer about what you can do to help keep bears wild, call the Parks and Wildlife office in Monte Vista at 719-587-6900. You can also learn more about bears and living with wildlife at:

Image courtesy Colorado Parks & Wildlife

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