Helpful tips for bear-proofing your life

photo by Rick and Karen Mann | Security cameras catch a bear on the prowl for a midnight snack.
photo by Rick and Karen Mann | Security cameras catch a bear on the prowl for a midnight snack.

by Susan Michaud
While the focus of late, and appropriately so, has been on the introduction of wolves into Colorado, there is another animal that we who call the mountains our home must consider. As a fairly new member of the Old Park community–we were liberated from the city on July 4th, last year—I have learned that the critter I refer to as “Yogi” is a very real concern. (We refer to him as Yogi so my three-year-old granddaughter isn’t alarmed when we talk about him.)

I saw my first bear last summer as it meandered up the hill next to our home. It wasn’t in a hurry, nor did it take any real notice of us. Neighbors posted their encounters with bears on our neighborhood Facebook page over the following months and again this spring. As a former city dweller, I was fascinated and excited to see a bear, but I was also concerned and desired to know what I could do to reduce the possibility of having an unwanted encounter with one.
I’ve since done some research and have learned some tips that have made me more or less at ease, although no less aware.

It seems that Yogi is a “chow hound,” and one of his main concerns in life is getting enough calories to make it through the next winter. As such, he will try to get the most calories with the least amount of effort. So, the biggest tip is to make sure he doesn’t see your home as one of his favorite restaurants. Here are a few things that we are doing:

We keep our trash in the garage in plastic bags until we can take it into town, which is often. We clean trash cans with ammonia or bleach regularly. We also use rags soaked in ammonia to cover the smell if it seems bad. Yogi has a great nose!

We burn off our grill and bring it into our garage after using it.

We do not leave dog food outside or feed other wild animals. We have chosen not to feed birds for now, but I’ve learned of safe ways to still attract them like a water feature and planting their favorite flowers. There are also safe ways to have bird feeders; take them in at night, or wait until Yogi goes to bed for the winter.

We keep doors and windows that are bear accessible locked, including our vehicle doors.

We do not leave food or trash in our vehicles. I don’t even use a sweet-smelling air freshener in my car like I used to in the city.

Another thing I learned is that reporting a bear to CPW when it is still being a small nuisance could prevent it from becoming a larger one. Wildlife officials can assess the situation, determine if there
is anything that is attracting Yogi to the area, and address it with the residents. If everyone cooperates, then the bear will likely leave and look for calories elsewhere. If a neighborhood waits until the bear becomes aggressive, then officials have fewer options, and the bear could instead lose its life. This doesn’t mean that I should have reported the bear walking through our meadow. He was just passing through. Had he tried to get into my car or garage, then a call would be in order.
So while the wolves may become a real issue sooner than we would like, Yogi is alive and well in Grand County, and we would do well to be aware and proactive. It’s important to be a good neighbor to our four-legged friends and keep them from getting into trouble by removing temptation whenever possible.