More interactions with wildlife expected as development expands into their habitat

Our Colorado: Bear habitats shrink amid growth
Posted at 4:57 PM, May 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-29 20:14:56-04

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DENVER – As Colorado neighborhoods continue to expand, other areas in the state are shrinking.

This includes Colorado’s bear country, where there has been so much new outward development.

Wildlife officials and rehabbers say the development has led to more interactions between people and wildlife.

“It's a real conflict,” Cec Sanders said.

She and her husband, Tom, have rehabbed and released more than 150 of Colorado’s black bears in the last 32 years at Wet Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Wetmore, CO.

“I think it just makes us feel good to just let them be what they're supposed to be,” Tom told Denver7.

The focus is on keeping black bears wild.

The two previously explained how drought conditions and weather have hugely impacted food grown in the wild. The search for sustenance is another reason bears might wander into populated areas.

While some question why we’re seeing more bears enter our neighborhoods, others ask why more humans are moving into bear habitat.

“When people come in [into Colorado] there’s a place that they have to go. So, we’ve kind of run out of space in places like Denver, and people start moving further, further west and further, further south,” Rebecca Ferrell with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said. “And they are kind of moving into that bear territory.”

The number of human and bear interactions is only expected to grow.

“They're increasing only because we're kind of sharing a little bit more of their habitat, and a little bit more of their environment,” Ferrell explained.

CPAW has a unique responsibility of trying to accommodate both human and wildlife needs. This is an undertaking CPAW is committed to getting right.

Ferrell explained the department consistently works with planners, developers and homeowners to help with designs that take into consideration both people and wildlife.

“We certainly do not have jurisdiction to force them to do one thing or another, but we do enjoy a close working relationship with our developers to kind of try and mitigate some of those things,” Ferrell said.

Even with that direction, urban sprawl is something we’ll continue to see.

CPAW shared another factor that may be fueling those unwanted interactions.

“Food and getting calories trump everything,” Ferrell said, referring to bears.

That’s why prevention is key and is as simple as keeping bird feeders inside and keeping trashcans locked.

She continued, “Bears have a really strong sense of smell, and pretty much, the entire time they're awake they're looking for food.”

So, it’s not only drought conditions bringing bears into your corner of Colorado. Instead, your home may already be located in an area where bears have thrived for years.