DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife says Coloradans should expect to see more bears than usual this summer due to a disruption to their food supply.
According to CPW, reported problems between bears and humans was down 28% in 2021. Last year also had weather favorable to grow berries and acorns that bears like to eat.
“This year, not so much. We have not had the moisture. We’ve had really hot temps already. We had a couple late snowstorms there in May that had below-freezing temps,” CPW District Wildlife Manager Tyler Asnicar said.
CPW says the late-season freeze destroyed nearly all of this year’s expected crop from gamble oaks in western Douglas County. It also killed off or damaged many currant, plum and chokecherry plants across the Front Range.
However, Asnicar predicted the dryness will eventually do more damage to their food supply than the May freeze.
“If we don’t continue to get some moisture throughout the summer, it’s going to get dry, so those berries might flower and they might fruit but then they’re just not gonna be — think the ones at the grocery store. You don’t want the ones that are all shriveled up in the corner, but that’s kind of looking like what we might end up with.”
Human-bear contacts may rise as they seek food
In areas with fewer options for bears to forage for natural food sources, bears are more likely to travel into areas inhabited by humans, according to CPW.
In 2017, which similarly saw a late freeze followed by dry conditions, CPW saw a rise in conflicts between humans and bears, resulting in 109 of the animals needing to be relocated and 190 being euthanized.
“It’s not that they’re meaning to come down. No malicious intent. They’re just looking for their next meal, and so the easiest way to find that they’re going to capitalize on. And so it’s up to us as people to minimize those attractants. Make it hard for them to find human-related food sources,” Asnicar said.
They tend to go after fruit trees, trash cans, pet food dishes, barbecues, bird feeders and vehicles.
“If you’re going on an overnight backpack trip and you leave your Micky D’s in the backseat of your car, even if it’s locked, if they’re hungry enough they’re gonna try to get in,” Asnicar said.
If you do come across a bear in town or in the wild, experts suggest you do not run away.
“You want to look big, you want to be calm, you don’t want to run away. That’s gonna spur their predatory instinct to try to chase you,” Asnicar said. “If it continues toward you, you ramp it up. You can throw rocks, sticks et cetera. Yell at the bear.”