(COLORADO) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) said bear reports in 2022 rose 16% over the previous year, and the number one cause of conflicts remains bears getting into people’s trash.

According to CPW, a new bear reporting system was launched in 2019 to help wildlife managers track and quantify bear activity and conflicts across the state. Since its implementation in April 2019, CPW has recorded 18,351 reports of sightings and conflicts with bears, of which nearly one-third are traced back to bears getting into trash.

“We need help from local communities to develop strategies to secure garbage and other attractants across bear habitat,” said Kristin Cannon, deputy regional manager for CPW’s Northeast Region. “Ultimately, it will also require individuals to take some responsibility and follow proper guidelines on living appropriately with bears to protect them.”

Learn more about human-bear conflict reductions grants here and find out if your community is eligible. 

The bear reports from 2022 show that bears attempting to access trash continues to be the leading cause of conflict. Other constant sources of conflict include birdfeeders, livestock, bears accessing open garages and other human-originated items that are left unsecured.

The report shows that the eastern side of the state saw relatively low conflicts, due to good moisture leading to plenty of natural forage for bears in the spring. However, CPW said Colorado’s West Slope, especially CPW’s Northwest Region, was less fortunate. A late freeze lead to a food failure in most areas with natural berry and acorn crops being almost nonexistent.

Compared to 2020 and 2021, CPW’s Southwest Region saw a 3% decrease in bear reports, but the Northwest Region, where much of the region was in severe drought, saw an increase of 9%.

CPW said these conflicts could all easily be reduced if the public takes some simple steps around their homes and properties to prevent bears from accessing them.

Bear-proofing your home:

  • Keep garbage in a well-secured location. Only put out garbage on the morning of pickup.
  • Clean garbage cans regularly to keep them free of food odors: ammonia is effective.
  • Keep garage doors closed, Do not leave pet food or stock feed outside.
  • Use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.
  • Bird feeders are a major source of bear/human conflicts. Attract birds naturally with flowers and water baths. Do not hang bird feeders from April 15 to Nov. 15.
  • Don’t allow bears to become comfortable around your house. If you see one, haze it by yelling at it, throwing things at it and making loud noises to scare it off.
  • Secure compost piles. Bears are attracted to the scent of rotting food.
  • Clean the grill after each use, clean-up thoroughly after cookouts.
  • If you have fruit trees, don’t allow the fruit to rot on the ground.
  • Talk to your neighbors and kids about being Bear Aware.

Cars, traveling and campsites:

  • Lock your doors when you’re away from home and at night.
  • Keep the bottom floor windows of your house closed when you’re not at home.
  • Do not keep food in your vehicle; roll up windows and lock the doors of your vehicles.
  • When car-camping, secure all food and coolers in a locked vehicle.
  • Keep a clean camp, whether you’re in a campground or in the backcountry.
  • When camping in the backcountry, hang food 100 feet or more from the campsite; don’t bring any food into your tent.
  • Cook food well away from your tent; wash dishes thoroughly.

Protecting your chickens, bees, livestock:

  • Keep chickens, bees and livestock in a fully covered enclosure, especially at night. 
  • Construct electric fencing when possible.
  • Don’t store livestock feed outside.
  • Keep enclosures clean to minimize animal odors. 
  • Hang rags soaked in ammonia and/or Pine-Sol around the enclosure as a scent deterrent.

So what should you do if you have a run in with a bear that is causing trouble? CPW says to report it immediately.

CPW said they are aware that some may be hesitant to report bear activity over a belief that the bear will be put down. However, CPW said data shows that of the 18,351 reports wildlife managers have received on bears in the last four years, only 2.3% led to euthanization.

 When CPW is made aware, especially when conflicts first begin, wildlife officers can educate the community, make site visits to homes to help them secure attractants and can haze bears in an attempt to reinforce their natural fear of humans. In some circumstances, wildlife officers can attempt to relocate bears out of conflict areas to alleviate safety concerns or before that animal’s behavior escalates to a dangerous level which may require euthanization.

In the last four years, CPW has relocated 272 bears from sites of conflict, but wildlife officers stress relocation is not a fix-all solution.