Bear conflicts up 16% in Colorado, but down along the Front Range

Reports of bear sightings and conflicts with humans were up 16% in Colorado last year to nearly 4,300, but they were down slightly when compared to 2019 and 2020, according to an annual report issued Wednesday by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

On the Front Range east of the Continental Divide, reports decreased in 2022 but they grew in the northwest region of the state due to drought and a shortage of natural food sources there.

Ample moisture east of the Continental Divide created favorable conditions for the growth of natural bear food sources, including wild berries and nuts, reducing the need for bears to seek food in urban areas. Compared to the previous two years, Colorado’s southeast region saw an 18% decrease in bear conflicts while conflicts in the northeast region decreased 6%.

West of the divide, a late freeze led to “food failure,” the CPW report says, resulting in nearly “non-existent” sources of berries and acorns. The northwest region, which experienced extreme drought, saw a 9% increase in conflicts while the southwest region saw a 3% decrease.

CPW urges the public to learn how to bear-proof their homes.

“We need help from local communities to develop strategies to secure garbage and other attractants across bear habitat,” said Kristin Cannon, deputy regional manager for CPW’s northeast region, according to the CPW release. “Ultimately, it will also require individuals to take some responsibility and follow proper guidelines on living appropriately with bears to protect them.”

CPW says the leading cause of human-bear conflicts continues to be unsecured trash, although bird feeders, livestock and open garages also attract bears.

CPW officials urge the public to report bear activity. They believe some may be reluctant to do so, fearing CPW will euthanize the bear. Over the past four years, CPW has relocated 272 bears. Here’s a breakdown over the past eight years:

  • 2022: 94 euthanized, 59 relocated
  • 2021: 66 euthanized, 51 relocated
  • 2020: 158 euthanized, 118 relocated
  • 2019: 101 euthanized, 44 relocated
  • 2018: 79 euthanized, 24 relocated
  • 2017: 190 euthanized, 109 relocated
  • 2016: 66 euthanized, 16 relocated
  • 2015: 115 euthanized, 40 relocated

CPW estimates that Colorado’s bear population stands at 17,000-20,000, describing it as “stable and growing.”

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