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Bears still snoozing, watch out in coming week

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Although spring-like weather has blossomed in the Roaring Fork Valley in recent weeks (with momentary revivals of winter’s cold and wet), the annual appearance of bears coming out of hibernation has not yet accompanied the warmer temperatures, according to wildlife officials.

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Only one bear sighting has been reported so far in this region, said Perry Will, Colorado Parks & Wildlife Manager for Area 8, which covers Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties.

That single sighting, he said, was in the City of Aspen on March 10, when what is believed to have been a boar (male bear) was reported at the outskirts of town.

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Other than that, Will said, there’s been nothing, and officials are not expecting much for a little while to come.

“I wouldn’t foresee any issues whatsoever” in terms of human-bear conflicts in the near future, Will added, noting that sow bears (females) tend to hibernate longer and typically do not appear until some time in April.

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After the sows begin to come out, he said, is when humans need to take more care when they are in proximity to a sow and her cubs.

“Stay away, and don’t get between the sow and her cubs,” was the only advise Will expressed in terms of limiting potentially hazardous conflict with the hungry bruins.

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But now, he said, would be a good time for people to begin familiarizing themselves with such things as securing trash receptacles, not putting out bird-feeders and other potential food sources, and generally trying to avoid becoming a snack-bar for bears who might be accustomed to finding food near human habitations.

“The way the weather’s been, they’re going to be out and about” soon enough, Will predicted. “I’d say now’s the time to get your bear-aware hat on. You can get pretty lax over the winter.”

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As for other wildlife-human encounters, Will said the recent winter has been “probably the worst for lion incidents that we’ve had, ever. The winter got pretty rough there for a while,” particularly in Eagle County, around Edwards and Eagle.

Heavy snowpack in the high country pushed elk and deer downward, he said, and the area’s resurgent mountain lion population followed them down.

He said the best thing to do is stay away from potentially explosive wildlife encounters, including those with lions and a growing regional presence of moose.

Published in The Sopris Sun on March 24, 2016.

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