Black bears are visiting Dolores and Montezuma County neighborhoods, and officials are reminding the public to store trash in bear-proof containers.
In Dolores, Sheriff Steve Nowlin said bear scat has been seen on Merritt Way and on Hillside Drive in the past week.
A bear attempted to get into a bear-proof trash can on Merritt Way but was unable because it was properly secured with a cable, he said.
On Road 27 west of Dolores, there have been two bear sightings near residences, Nowlin said. In one incident, a bear was rummaging through a resident’s unsecured trash can.
“We are asking the public to please use bear-proof trash cans. It’s an effective and simple way to reduce the chances for bear and human conflicts,” Nowlin said.
A Dolores ordinance requires that all residential and commercial trash containers be bear-proof. The trash containers must be secured with a latch.
Nowlin said he and deputies have been giving warnings the past few years to violators, but tougher enforcement should now be expected with citations.
In Dolores, there is a fine of up to $499 for failing to properly use a bear-proof trash can.
The bear-proof trash containers protect humans and bears, Nowlin said. Also, keep pet food indoors, and barbecue grills cleaned. Bird feeders should be carefully managed.
If bears and their cubs get conditioned to regularly visiting trash cans for a food source, they become a problem and might have to be trapped, relocated, and in serious cases, euthanized.
The town of Dolores also has been replacing city trash receptacles with bear-proof ones, including trash cans in parks.
In the past two years, the town has purchased 10 bear-proof trash cans at a cost of $15,000, and the plan is to replace all city trash receptacles with the bear-proof models.
Bears’ natural food source in the backcountry is good so far, wildlife officials report.
Bears are out grazing on grass and flowers. Later in the summer, they depend on berries and acorns. It’s too early to determine how those natural food sources will develop this year.
A regional late frost can hurt the berry and acorn crop, but that has not happened yet, said Adrian Archuleta, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife The ongoing drought and lack of monsoons can also diminish natural food bears depend on.
Last year, natural food supplies in the wild were fairly sufficient for bears, he said.
Bears have also been reported in area towns including in Dolores, Rico and Durango.
CPW encourages the public to report bear sightings to (970) 247-0855 so they can keep track of incidents and wild populations in general.
There can be a misconception and worry that calling CPW about a bear too close to residents, or in the trash, automatically results in the bear being trapped, Archuleta said.
That is not the case, he said. By intervening early with a site visit by a wildlife officer, bear attractants can be identified and reduced.
“Calling sooner rather than later” is critical because it allows for proactive measures that help prevent the bear from returning and becoming habituated to an unnatural food source, Archuleta said.