Living in Crested Butte means sharing our home with the wildlife that live on the land protected by the Crested Butte Land Trust. Autumn is the time of year when the bears begin to layer on enough fat to get them through the long winter without eating or drinking. Their caloric intake goes from 2,500 calories a day to 20,000 and they forage for nutrition virtually nonstop. A black bears’ nose is 100 times more sensitive than a humans and can smell food up to 5 miles away.
Studies have show that a meal of tasty, nutritious seeds, a natural food for bears, found in bird feeders are often the first taste bears have leading them into exploring human places. Leaving your bird feeders accessible to bears teaches them that it’s safe to come close to people and homes looking for food. And for bears that can be a deadly lesson. Instead of seeded bird feeders, use plantings, nest boxes and flowers to attract birds. Use bird feeders only when bears are hibernating and if you don’t want to stop feeding birds seed, you need to hang your feeders at least ten feet off the ground and ten feet away from anything bears can climb.
Bears are willing to work hard to get at trash and garbage, and return often in hopes of finding more. These food-conditioned bears sometimes enter homes, garages or even vehicles in search of an easy meal. Bears in pursuit of such a good source of calories have the ability to do a lot of property damage, and even become aggressive. Allowing bears to get into the garbage is one of the leading causes of human-bear conflicts. It is imperative to use bear proof trash cans, to close your garage doors and to keep food out of you vehicle. Being smarter than the bears can protect your home and property, and help keep bears alive and wild.
Black bears are curious, intelligent and very resourceful. The younger and more inexperienced the bear, the easier it is to teach it to avoid people and human food sources. When a bear is forced to be destroyed, not only the bear loses but we all lose a piece of the wilderness that makes Crested Butte so special. Join the Crested Butte Land Trust in committing to do our part to keep the bears wild. Visit the Colorado Department of Wildlife website at http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/LivingWithWildlife/Mammals/Pages/LivingWithBearsL1.aspx for more tips to become “more bear aware.”