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Bear photographed swimming in McPhee Reservoir

First, the bears first came down from the hills for the food. Now, they seem to be coming for the drink.

In what has been a summer of bear sightings in Dolores, Cortez, Mancos and Durango, a bear now has been photographed in McPhee Reservoir.

Chris Caciagli, of Cortez, encountered the bear Saturday as he was boating in the reservoir. The bear was about a half mile north of the main dock at McPhee, Caciagli said, and about 200 yards from shore. He eased his boat toward the bear for a closer shot using his smartphone.

This summer, residents have reported numerous bear sightings near populated areas. An early freeze that damaged wild acorn and berry production has left bears desperate to put on the weight necessary for hibernation.

Animal control officer Lari Ann Pope said a resident sent her a surveillance video of a bear crossing their front porch last week on North Market Street. It was the third bear sighting report she’d had in the past month, she said, although it was the first time anyone had caught one of the animals on video. Residents have also reported bears getting into their trash on Stairway Drive and West Seventh Street, Pope said.

The Dolores Town Board passed an emergency ordinance in August requiring all residents and businesses to buy bear-resistant trash containers, after more than a month of regular bear raids on dumpsters.

The Durango City Council on last week approved an emergency ordinance that includes a $100 fine for residents who are found to have wildlife-strewn trash and a $200 fine for subsequent violations. Mesa Verde National Park also stepped up its bear-safety education program for visitors in August.

Pope advised residents to their trash out early in the morning, rather than the night before pickup, and not to leave food items in cars or on porches overnight. Bears also go after bird feeders, so she advised residents to keep those inside at night.

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