The Bears Are Awake – and Hungry
While many Leadvillites are ready for summer, the calendar still says spring for another week and so, the news in Leadville Today reflects that season. It’s bears, eagles, and flooding making the headlines.
Bear sightings have been on the rise as these beautiful, hungry creatures awaken and are in search of food. If seems like you’re hearing about more reports than usual this year, it’s because you are.
So Leadville Today contacted Zach Baker, District Wildlife Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife who’s known around these parts as the-bear-guy. It has been a busy spring for Colorado Black Bears, with Baker reporting locally that are have been two bear reports in Beaver Lake Estates, 4 or 5 in Twin Lakes, two up Highway 91 north of Leadville and “who knows how many in town.” He even picked up a dead bear that had been hit by a car.
Several users have reported bear paw prints on the popular Mineral Belt Trail in the California Gulch area, and where the path crosses by the landfill. And yes, the bears have been feeding at the dump, it was confirmed by Lake County Public Works officials who manage the facility, which is a traditional hot spot for hungry bears. In fact, there’s a route they take, so to speak, according to Baker.
“They feed at the dump and then go back through town trying to get to the river to get a drink of water,” explained Baker.
But unfortunately, the trash throughout town can add to that problem. And according to Baker, if it’s in your trash, then it’s your problem. Don’t store trash in the bed of your pickup, waiting a week to take it to the dump. It should be stored in a container inside a shed/garage.
“The state of Colorado does not trap bears over trash,” said Baker-the-bear-guy. “So if someone calls me and says there’s a bear in my trash, that’s on them.” He went on to explain CPW policy: “The reason we relocate bears is if they show aggressive behavior or they are in an occupied dwelling. The reason that they start showing aggressive behavior is because they came to that house/location, they got rewarded with some kind of food and then they came back the next night and got rewarded. But then on the third night, they come back and there’s no trash there. Well, now the bear’s upset because his food source is gone. That’s when they go looking for car doors to open, other trash cans, an open window.”
When it comes to camping, you shouldn’t even go out if you are not bear aware.
“Don’t leave your coolers out. Everyone thinks, oh it’s a bear-proof cooler, but that’s not true. They will get into your cooler,” stated Baker, adding one of the more interesting bear facts yet. “Colorado bears know that if they see a white and blue igloo cooler, guess what’s in it?! FOOD!” While it sounds a bit like a Superbowl beer commercial, Baker stated that whether they are full or empty you are better off leaving the coolers in a locked car, because they will likely be destroyed if left out by the campsite or in a tent.
So when did Baker think things will quiet down a bit for bear activity? Some years it quiets down after the initial wake-up and he won’t get another bear report again until August. Other years, it’s all summer long. Stay tuned and stay bear aware!
What to Do If You See a Bear?
Report a Bear Sighting to CPW
Save a bear – report a bear! Lake County residents can call the emergency dispatch center at 719-486-1249 and they will contact Zach “the-bear-guy” Baker to address your bear concerns. If you see a bear in the wild, don’t call, but if you have a bear coming to your trash can every night, it’s best to report it.
Baker wants to remind folks to take in all bird feeders at night as that has been the target in many incidents. While many residents like to bring these fine-feathered friends in close with hard seeds and sugary water in order to have a closer look, it’s the number one attraction for bears.
“In a perfect world, we’d get rid of bird feeders,” Baker stated. “The birds will live without us feeding them.”
While no property damage has not been reported in Lake County yet this year, down in Buena Vista there have been issues with several bears smart enough to open up car doors. To date this season, no bears have been trapped, put down or re-located, according to Baker.
Want more information about bear safety? READ THE BROCHURE put out by the CPW.
Empty Nesters: Fly Like an Eagle
Readers may recall the earlier news regarding a couple of eagles that had moved into the platform nest out at the May Queen Campground at Turquoise Lake. That occupation led to the closure for the Boustead tunnel access road and surrounding area to minimize disturbance to the birds this summer while raising their young. Well, it looks like the pair has flown the coop.
“Unfortunately, the bald eagle nest we were protecting has failed and the birds are no longer nesting at the structure,” said Jeni Windorski, Wildlife Biologist with the US Forest Service. “Nature sometimes doesn’t work like we expect and we are unsure of why the birds left.”
In years past the nest has been home to some ospreys, so all you birdwatchers, keep an eye out and report any new residents. Maybe they are waiting for the lake to fill up so that they can find some dinner! The good news is that all of the closures that were in place in the area have been lifted near the tunnel and access road.
Local Flooding Closes Road
While lake-lovers are patiently waiting for Turquoise Lake to fill up, the nearby tributaries are raging with spring runoffs and the streams and river are running high, some cresting traditional banks. One of the road closures due to spring flooding and some erosion caused is Lake County Road 5a. So for those of you who love to drive or ride the loop road, it’s closed just past the Ass Ranch where it intersects with Lake Fork Creek. Lake County Road and Bridge crews are monitoring the situation and will re-open the road when it is deemed safe to do so.
All residents and visitors should be very aware when enjoying the great outdoors. The animals are on the move and while they are lovely to look at, keep your distance or it could be deadly. And a reminder that fast moving spring runoff conditions are no joke. Two people have already died in rafting accidents on the Arkansas River.