A late frost and dry, hot weather impacted natural foods that bears rely on, making for an incredibly active and challenging bear season and straining resources. We were busy “putting out fires,” yet were able to achieve objectives and work towards advancing mission goals. Some highlights and accomplishments from the year include:
• Working with La Plata County, waste haulers and others in having all waste haulers in the county offer bear-resistant trash containers to residents. Secured $15,000 in funding, which allows for enforcement of the County bear and trash law, passed in 2008.
• Making recommendations to the City of Durango in July resulting in one, (replacing warnings for initial bear and trash violations with fines), being adopted.
• Partnering with CSU Extension and the City of Durango to collect pumpkins post-Halloween to keep from bears and other wildlife. 405 pumpkins were collected over two days at two locations to be used as livestock feed by area ranchers.
• Implementing a new program having elementary school students monitor bear and other wildlife activity near their school via motion-activated trail cameras. We anticipate expanding this to multiple schools and grades next year.
• Greatly expanding the fruit gleaning program by partnering with Local First and others to develop a broader Regional Food Recovery Hub, of which fruit gleaning will be part. We hired the coordinator in late December!
• Securing $10,000 in funding to allow the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center to coordinate fruit gleaning harvest crews in 2018.
• Reaching over 960 schoolchildren and adults via educational programs. Schools and after school programs included: Big Picture, Needham, Riverview, Shared School, Juniper School, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Purgatory PACK. Public presentations included: Pine River Library, Edgemont Ranch HOA, Blue Spruce RV Park, Ignacio Town Council, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Forest Lakes HOA, Ridgway Great Old Broads and Heartwood Co-Housing.
• Assisting Mesa Verde National Park with educational outreach, materials and presentations to campers at park campgrounds in response to unprecedented bear and camper issues.
• Distributing 40-some bear-resistant containers as loaners to county residents experiencing issues with bears accessing trash, livestock feed, and more. We were the only venue in 2017 for county residents to obtain bear-resistant trash cans, other than purchasing one.
• Assisting 15 county residents with construction of electric fencing systems to deter bears from chickens, ducks, beehives, etc and consulting, assisting an additional 20 residents on electric fencing solutions.
• Having volunteers make an inventory of unwelcome mats for distribution to prevent bears from breaking into homes, thus preventing more bears from having to be managed by wildlife officials.
• Greatly increasing our presence and reach on social media. We now have 3,234 followers on Facebook (+603 from 2016) and 639 followers on Twitter (+182 from 2016).
• Initiating a campaign with partners to have the City of Durango reconsider allowing residents to use electric fencing in protecting chickens, beehives, etc from bears.
Other accomplishments in 2017 include:
- Having the BE BEAR SMART banner displayed for three weeks in town.
- Assisting the communities of Dolores, Manitou Springs and Estes Park prior to them successfully passing bear and trash-related wildlife ordinances.
- Hosting the Southern Ute Indian Tribe for a representational Bear Dance in spring.
- Partnering with a New Mexico-based biologist on two online “Bears in Your Backyard” webinars.
- Demonstrating Bear Smart camping for Colorado Trails Day at Backcountry Experience.
- Spearheading the May meeting of the Bear Working Group, a group of stakeholders with a mission of reducing human-bear conflict.
- Initiating a meeting with County officials, waste haulers and stakeholders on county bear and trash issues, focusing on the unavailability of bear-resistant trash cans.
Banner photo: Monitoring the effectiveness of loaner bear-resistant trash containers in 2017 via trail cameras. The bear shown batted the can around but was not able to access trash.