EVERGREEN, Colo. -- There are telltale signs that bears are coming out of hibernation earlier than usual this year in the state of Colorado.
A homeowner near Evergreen found bear paw prints in the snow, just two-and-a-half feet from her front door.
“It was kind of interesting,” Suzanne Barlow said. “We’ve not seem them this early.”
Barlow also told Denver7 the bear pulled off some trim from an outbuilding attached to their garage.
“He was trying to get inside,” she said, “but we had it locked.”
Down the road, a bear gained entry to a car that had been left unlocked.
“My father-in-law woke up, looked out the window and saw my car door open,” said Katie Seelbach. “I thought someone had burglarized it.”
When Seelbach walked outside, she noticed her purse and its contents strewn around the driveway.
She said what surprised her was that her wallet, credit cards and driver’s license were still on the ground nearby. She picked up her purse, looked inside and noticed that a bag of M&Ms had been ripped open and eaten.
That’s when she turned around and walked back to her car, and realized that a bear had been inside chowing down on a box of snacks the expectant mom had left on the seat.
“It was a Costco size box of chocolate chip granola bars and there were just wrappers everywhere,” she said.
Seelbach said she didn’t think to lock her car doors, because her in-laws live in a remote area, with very little traffic.
Now, she will.
“Don’t have food in your car,” she said, “even if you crave snacks. Don’t leave your purse inside and lock the doors. Those are the takeaways for me.”
Jennifer Churchill, of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said hibernation schedules are “always weather-dependent.”
“It’s not abnormal to see bears this early,” she said. “They deal with warm winter days by poking their heads up and then go back to sleep.”
Churchill said people who live in bear country should take steps to lessen the likelihood of bears hanging out on their property.
“Many people see bears and the first thing they do is grab their cell phone and start taking pictures,” she said. “That doesn’t really scare the bears off.”
Churchill said that’s not in the best interest of bears or humans.
“If bears are hanging out in your neighborhood, you need to make them uncomfortable,” she said.