Bears on the Prowl in the High Country

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Photos by CR Chambers

Growing food hunts result in invasions of local neighborhoods and homes

~ by John Jones ~

This summer could be known as the “Summer of the Bear” all across Colorado, including Teller County and the lower Ute Pass area.

Bear encounters have been on the rise since early June, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials prove to stay busy as more bears come in contact with people and urban environments.

The west side of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs have had over 40 reported bear encounters this summer, with one encounter resulting in the bear being killed by Colorado Park and Wildlife official after it broke into a man’s home for over six hours. Late last week, a large mother bear and her cub were spotted in Garden of the Gods, spooking several tourists while hiking. Another bear was removed from the Uintah Street area last weekend, and relocated to Pikes National Forest.

Recently a bear was tracked with dogs and killed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers after it came within a few feet of two children playing outside near Vallecito Lake. The two boys and their mother were able to make it safely into the house, The Durango Herald reported. Wildlife officials say another bear was killed last week when a Durango landowner shot it, after it killed some chickens.

Wildlife officials also recently released a statement believing they killed the bear that bit a camp staffer and tried to drag him out of his sleeping bag. The teen staffer at a Colorado camp fought off a bear after he woke up around 4 a.m. Sunday to a “crunching sound” with his head inside the mouth of the bear as he slept outside a youth camp northwest of Denver.

Locally, officials say that the lack of natural-food cycle (such as acorns) is the cause for the upswing in bear incidents. Officials have stated that this is the largest reported amount of incidents within the last seven years. The reasoning is that animals are being forced to find alternative food sources, mainly from humans, such as trash or bird feeders.

The bear reporting season has also been quite active in the lower Ute Pass area, and especially in Green Mountain Falls, according to new marshal Virgil Hodges. The lower Ute Pass has always been known as bear country, and it is not unusual for locals to spot black bears walking down residential streets next to their homes. But this trend is on the upswing.   

Recent rains across the lower Ute Pass area should help increase the natural resource for bears, with hopes that bear incidents while begin to decline. Officials remind the public to keep their distance from bears, and call the Colorado Department of Wildlife to report incidents.