Natural threats to bears include drought, starvation, loss of natural food sources, accidents, internal parasites, fires and other bears. Mountain lions, also, on occasion kill small bears. Black bears are relatively disease free and have remarkable recuperative healing powers.
On average, bear hunting in the state accounts for about 70% of all bear mortality. Colorado Parks and Wildlife keeps statistics on all manners of black bear mortality including hunter take and bear mortality outside of hunting, (nuisance bear removal, vehicle mortality or bears shot by homeowners in defense of property), regionally and statewide. Read more about local and statewide non-hunter black bear mortality.
Humans are responsible for most bear deaths. Collisions with vehicles, the destruction of “problem” bears, hunting, poaching, livestock protection and loss of habitat are leading causes of bear mortality in Colorado. It is yet to be known what affect if any a warming climate will have on black bears in Colorado, although hibernation is expected to be shorter – therefore allowing for more time for human and bear conflict.
The growth of the human population is likely the biggest threat to bears in Colorado.
LOSS OF HABITAT
Many areas of the state, (see maps below of subdivision growth in La Plata County since 1970), are rapidly losing some of its best bear habitat to home development, ski and golf resorts. State forecasters project that Colorado’s population will exceed 7.1 million by 2040, primarily focused in some of the most productive bear habitat in the state. La Plata County has seen a four-fold increase in the human population in the past 20 years. Human population growth in the state is 2% annually, while human-bear conflict has been growing by 4% yearly. Human-bear conflict is expected to increase, regardless of whether the statewide bear population remains stable, increases or decreases.
“You don’t have a bear in your backyard; the bear has a house in his front yard.” — Mike Reid, Colorado Parks and Wildlfe