The Boulder Bear Coalition implements preventative measures to reduce human-bear conflicts to keep local black bears wild and free and the Boulder community safe.
BBCs main driver has been to approach Bear Management from the bottom up. Rather than relying on wildlife officers to respond to a crisis of a bear in town, BBC has focused on educating and empowering the community to keep bears from coming into town (by reducing attractants, increasing deterrents) so that wildlife officers do not need to handle bears in town. For community members who do not reduce the main attractants (unsecured trash) then the city steps in to implement and enforce these laws. A community is built on shared values, and because wildlife is something that most residents in Boulder value, BBC was born from a need to create a cohesive understanding of what we can do, in clear steps, to protect bears and how we can effectively communicate this information to one another.
A video by Melanie Hill about the work of Boulder Bear Coalition:
Sierra Magazine article about BBC’s role in bear management in Boulder:
Why are bears in town?
During hyperphagia, a time of increased eating to prepare for hibernation, bears are attracted into town by the lure of unsecured trash, unharvested fruit trees, beehives, chicken coops, bird feeders, etc. Some of these bears will become habituated to people and food conditioned to these easily available calories, thus becoming “nuisance” bears. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officers, whose priority is to keep people safe from wild animals, are charged with managing the bears in town. The “nuisance” bears are tranquilized, tagged (Boulder bears are given a green ear tag in each ear) and relocated outside the city. Options on where to release a bear is limited and although bears are often relocated 50 + miles of their original point of capture, relocated bears typically return to their place of capture or are hit by cars trying to return.
Because bears need to find their own territory and being released into another bear’s already established territory can be dangerous for the relocated bear, especially a sow with cubs. According to CPW’s 2-Strike Policy, if a bear has to be handled twice by a CPW officer, the second time it is killed. For more information, see a description here.
What is a “nuisance” bear?
A “nuisance” bear meets one or more of the items below:
- a bear that is continually reported in town eating unsecured trash
- a bear that is continually reported in town eating natural food (fruit from trees)
- a resident of home where a bear has been habitually seen wants the bear removed
- a bear does a bluff charge, including a sow with young cubs (in other places such as Yosemite this is considered normal behavior and would not justify labeling her as aggressive or a problem)
What is an “aggressive” bear?
An aggressive bear meets one or more of the items below (1-Strike applies):
- has charged several people
- eaten livestock
- entered a home
What Is Proactive Bear Management?
We have identified three main proactive strategies that need to be addressed to keep future bears safe:
- Reduce Attractants
- Increase use of bear resistant trash and compost bins throughout town; expand to areas beyond Bear Protection Ordinance Zone
- Enforcement of trash laws by Boulder City Police
- Increase harvesting of fruit throughout town, see Community Fruit Rescue,
- Take in bird feeders and other attractants
- Map out natural corridors that bears are using to come into town and finding ways to reduce the ease of bears moving from open space to densely populated neighborhood (i.e. Goose Creek area where Bear 317 was regularly seen and later killed).
- Create BearSafe Neighborhoods to increase community outreach and accountability for reducing attractants
- Increase Deterrents
- Increase use of electric fencing around beehives and chicken coops
- Increase use of electric unwelcome mats near entrances to food storage areas
- Improve hazing techniques for bears that are in town
- Increase community outreach and accountability for increasing deterrents
- Increase native food source in wilderness open space
Banner photo credit: Melanie Hill. Bear on CU Campus Summer 2016
Bear Sleeping in Tree photo credit: Brenda Lee, bear in tree in Newlands neighborhood, Summer 2013