Keeping harmony with bears

The fates of bears often hang in limbo, especially when natural food sources become scarce. Homeowners can do these wild animals a service by removing common attractants around their property such as: trash, pet food and bird feeders. Without proper incentive to roam urban areas in search of an easy meal, the bears will most likely return to their natural habitat.
Mike McLaughlin/SUIT Lands Division


This year the Southern Ute Tribal Wildlife Division has been taking an unprecedented number of calls from tribal members regarding nuisance bears on the reservation. Typically the calls revolve around a bear getting into a trash cart that has not been secured and kept out of reach of bears or other wildlife.

Trash is a major attractant to bears, especially this time of year. We are just a couple of months away from the bears going into hibernation, so they are trying to consume as many calories as possible at this time.

2017 has seen natural food sources crash. Acorns, chokecherries and a variety of berries are simply not available to bears in the quantities they need. Therefore they are turning to trash, grills, bird feeders, pet food and anything else they can get from human sources.

There is confusion about what the Tribal Wildlife Division’s response should be to a “bear in trash” call. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to keep attractants out of reach of bears and all other wildlife. In the overwhelming majority of cases, if an attractant is taken away, the animals will move on.

When the Wildlife Division gets a call that a bear was in a tribal member’s trash, the first response will always be to discuss how the trash is being stored. The expectation is that all trash, as well as all other potential attractants, must be secured out of the reach of animals. A lockable shed, garage or outbuilding is a good option for storage, and only bring the trash out on the morning of pick-up. If secure areas aren’t available, then trash can be taken to the Tribal Transfer Station as it is produced.

Division staff are happy to visit with homeowners to evaluate ways to secure attractants and to recommend measures to eliminate potential sources of wildlife conflicts. Often times, callers to the Wildlife Division request the immediate trapping and removal of the bear. However, the Wildlife Division only uses removal and relocation as a final step. The reality is that if a bear is removed and the trash problem is NOT addressed, another bear will soon arrive to take advantage of the same attractants and the cycle starts over.

The Tribal Utilities Division is working with the local waste service provider to provide bear-proof carts to Southern Ute tribal members who want them. Used properly, a bear-proof trash cart will keep bears out of your trash.

Unfortunately, 2017 has been such a busy year with bears region-wide that these carts aren’t immediately available. Utilities and the Wildlife Division both encourage tribal members to call and get on a waiting list for a bear-proof cart. By next summer you’ll have one of these carts and will be on your way to bear-proofing your property.

We expect continuing bear activity in the Ignacio and surrounding areas over the next two months. Please do your part to keep your property cleaned up, for both you and your neighbors’ peace of mind. The reality is that this needs to be a neighborhood effort, but it starts with you.

Please call the Wildlife Division with any questions at 970-563-0130. Call the Utilities Division at 970-563-5500 to request a bear-proof trash cart.

Like it? Share it!