“Always respect Mother Nature. Especially when she weighs 400lbs and is guarding her baby” – Jame Rollins
We are all aware that wildlife can be found … well out in the wilderness. I live in the suburbs of Denver so I shouldn’t have to worry about wild animals right? Wrong! Back on August 4th we had a adolescent Black bear come a calling in our backyard. Not once but twice in a time span of 30 to 40 minutes. It was crazy! The whole neighborhood was alight with a nervous excitement.
So let me set the scene for you really quick. It was a Saturday morning and I am sitting at my kitchen table with a view of our backyard. Our oldest Chihuahua, Oliver was outside in the flower bed soaking up the morning sunshine like he does every morning. Our backdoor neighbors were out on their deck having breakfast with their out of town company. Sounds like a beautiful relaxing summer morning. Then wham! A big furry thing is climbing over our back fence! About four feet from our neighbors on their deck! It took a second for me to realize that it was a bear, but then my mama instincts kicked in and I jumped up aiming for the outside because the bear was heading straight for the flowerbed where Oliver was sunning himself. I’m yelling frantically at Oliver to come to me on the porch, but nooooo he heads towards the bear barking his little head off. OMG!!!!
Fortunately for Oliver the bear was more interested in getting away from all of us than in stopping for an hors d’oeuvre. I was stunned. The neighbors were stunned.
Then in a less stressful visit the bear back tracked and decided to come down the center of all of our backyards jumping the dividing fences like they were nothing. He stopped in a few yards to investigate and check for food. Sitting, rolling in the grass and resting since the heat was starting to climb. It was fascinating to see him up close – now that Oliver was safely inside 🙂 . Of course the bear was the topic of conversation all around our neighborhood for a number of days since we were not sure if he had left the area. Now even though we live in the suburbs, we are surrounded by a number of greenbelts and about two miles south of us is a wildlife preserve. The wildlife officials figure that the bear had wandered into the area from the preserve got turned around and would find his way back if he wasn’t able to find food. A huge collective sigh of relief could be heard.
I am a born and raised Colorado native. I have lived my entire life in the Denver metro area and have NEVER come that close to a bear. In the suburb that I live we see coyotes, hawks, owls, foxes, snakes and occasionally a deer or two. This encounter made me wonder about Black bears and what should we as humans do in a case like this to protect ourselves and our pets from harm.
Black bear facts:
- Black bear is a species not a color. In Colorado most of our Black bears are blonde, cinnamon or brown in color.
- There are approximately 300,000 Black bears in the United States. In Colorado we have around 8,000 to 12,000. That number amazed me. You would think that people would run into bears all of the time, but no.
- Black bears are naturally wary of people and unfamiliar things. Their normal response is to run away. Which explains why our bears blew past Oliver even though he was barking at him.
- They are omnivores. 80 to 90 percent of their diets are made up of fruit, berries, nuts, and plants. The rest is insects and scavenged carcasses. In some areas of the country they may also eat salmon, mice and other small mammals.
- A bear’s sense of smell is 100 times more sensitive than a humans. They can smell food five miles away.
- During late Summer and Fall bears will need to consume 20,000 calories a day to gain enough weight to survive hibernating all Winter.
- Black bears are very smart and will return to a location time and time again if they find food.
How can we protect ourselves and our pets?
- Store all pet food or feed inside a secure shed or barn. Don’t leave your pet’s food bowl outside with food still in it.
- Outdoor dog runs should have a roof or be high enough to keep wildlife out. In the case of a bear a roof is the way to go. Electric fencing is also a great way to keep unwanted critters away from your pets.
- Bird feeders can be the first food that bears get in human spaces. They love seeds! It is recommended that you don’t use bird feeders but instead use water features and plantings to attract birds. Having a bear get the idea that food is available just because they find your bird feeder can end up to be deadly for the bear.
- Keep your trash and recycling inside until the morning of pick up. Once a bear learns that trash is easy to get they will return over and over.
- Install motion detector lights around your property or flash your porch light on and off before letting your pet out into your yard. The lights will startle a bear and any other wildlife that might be hanging around (foxes, coyotes, raccoons).
- If your pet trees a bear, call your pet off and place them in a safe location. Allow the bear time to climb down and retreat.
- Walk your pet on a non-retractable leash. This allows you more control if you come across wildlife or even other pets. I had another dog go after my Chihuahua Percy while we were out walking. Because of his leash and harness I was able to literally pull him up into my arms quickly. Funny thing was the other dog was on a retractable leash and got away from his owner. Just saying 🙁 .
- Bears are more likely to be active at night and during the dusk or dawn time frames. Try to walk your dog during the daytime hours if possible.
- Hazing is a great way to keep bears and other wildlife away from humans. Yelling, air horns, pots and pans, pop cans with coins or nails inside are all fabulous noisemakers. Carry a noisemaker with you while out walking. You want the animal to know that humans are not safe.
These are just few facts and suggestions about Black bears and how to keep you and your pet safe. Wildlife is amazing and getting the chance to see them in their natural habitat or maybe yours can be exciting and scary all at the same time. But keep in mind it is our responsibility to make sure that we keep ourselves and our pets safe along with the wildlife that is around us.
For more information check out this link – Colorado Parks and Wildlife