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Bears will sleep until mud season

Brief by Central Staff

Wildlife – December 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

We shouldn’t have to worry about bears until about April, according to local wildlife officer Ron Dobson.

He said the last foraging bruins — in town, anyway — were reported during the last week of October.

By November, “they’ve put on all the weight they’re going to put on, and they’re heading for their dens.” They may not hole up right away, though.

Stuffed bear at hunter information tent in front of Salida McDonald's
Stuffed bear at hunter information tent in front of Salida McDonald's

“Sometimes they’ll do what we call walking hibernation. They’ve quit eating and defecating, but they’ll walk around outside the den entrance for a few days.”

Not all Colorado bears had gone to bed by Hallowe’en, though. An Aspen man reported that a bear broke into his car on Nov. 5 to ravage bags of grain that he had bought for feeding birds and chipmunks. “I had hamster food in my trunk,” he told the Denver Post, “and none of the animals in the woods were eating it. But I guess the bears like it.” The bear also consumed 10 pounds of green grapes, and caused $1,000 damage to the car.

Last summer’s abundance of sightings and attacks was most likely caused by the weather — a late frost, which destroyed the blossoms that would otherwise grow into bear food, and a dry spell, which diminished the supply of other ursine fodder.

Thus the bears had to look harder for food, which brought them into areas they might otherwise have avoided. And as tourism grows, there are more people in the mountains to interact with the bears.

For our part, the closest encounter came during the first week of October, when our next-door neighbor found fresh bear scat in his driveway about 25 feet from Central world headquarters. We missed the visit, though — we were enjoying a short vacation in southern Utah, where we saw a bobcat and some wild turkeys, but no bears.

And may next spring produce an abundance of acorns and berries.