Colorado

Apr 27, 2010 5:05 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Hungry bears coming out of hibernation

Bears are coming out of hibernation in Colorado and, boy, are they hungry! That's the warning of the state Division of Wildlife which is hoping you'll steer clear of the foraging bruins.

Their chosen diet is berries, insects, acorns buds, plants and carrion. But if those things aren't plentiful, bears will be happy to settle for garbage, pet food, bird seed, and table scraps.

Bears that become accustomed to human food sources can be dangerous and often have to be euthanized. Thus, the saying, "a fed bear is a dead bear." For that reason, the DOW recommends the following precautions:

- Keep garbage in a secure building or a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.
- If you don't have a place to store garbage, ask the trash company for a bear-resistant container or order one. Many suppliers advertise containers on the Internet.
- Place smelly food scraps in the freezer until garbage day.
- Rinse out all cans, bottles and jars so that they are free of food and odors before putting them out for recycling or pick-up.
- Put out garbage cans only on the morning of pick-up. Do not put out garbage the night before.
- Wash garbage cans regularly with ammonia to eliminate food odors.
- Don't leave pet food or pet dishes outside.
- Bird feeders are a major cause of wildlife conflicts. Besides bears, feeders may also attract small mammals, deer and mountain lions. Birds do not need to be fed during the summer. As an alternative to feeders, attract birds naturally by hanging flower baskets, putting out a bird bath or planting a variety of flowers. Use bird feeders only from November until the end of March when bears are hibernating.
- If bears get into bird feeders, take the feeders down immediately and don't put them back up.
- Pick ripe fruit from trees and off the ground.
- Clean outdoor grills after each use; the smell of grease can attract bears.
- Never intentionally feed bears.
- Close and lock lower floor windows and doors of your house.
- Clean up thoroughly after outdoor parties.
- Don't leave food in your car, lock car doors. Bears are smart and many have learned to open car doors.
- When camping, store food and garbage inside a locked vehicle. Keep the campsite clean. Don't eat in the tent. In the backcountry, hang your food at least 10 feet high and 10 feet away from anything a bear can climb.
- Bears are not naturally aggressive toward people and prefer to avoid contact. If you see a bear in your neighborhood make it feel unwelcome: yell at it, throw sticks and rocks at it. But never approach a bear.

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