The first black bear out of the den this spring – at least the first one sighted – got into a garbage can overnight Wednesday on Fiesta Circle north of 32nd Street near the river.
It’s an early appearance, but not the earliest, said Bryan Peterson, who founded Bear Smart Durango in 2003 to educate residents about living with ursines.
The first bear last year was seen March 14. All other first bears since he started keeping track in 2007 were seen in April, Peterson said.
Peterson’s just-released summary of 2012 bear activity reported 916 incidents of bears in trash, the most in the six years he’s kept records.
Female bears that have been outfitted with an electronic collar as part of a study being done by Colorado Parks and Wildlife are starting to move, wildlife researcher Heather Johnson said Thursday.
“About one-third of 27 bears we have ‘on the air’ are out of their dens,” Johnson said. “If the collar is open to the sky, it communicates with a satellite and the satellite tells us a bear’s location.”
The bears haven’t moved far, a few hundred yards at most because they’re still lethargic, Johnson said. She had 40 bears collared but has lost some to vehicles, hunters or failed collar batteries, she said.
Johnson is beginning the third year of a five- to six-year investigation of ursine dynamics this summer. She’s trying to determine how contact with humans affects bear population and behavior.
La Plata County and the city of Durango have ordinances that prohibit setting out garbage cans before the morning of pickup. But the ordinances are in effect only from April 15 to Nov. 15.
Peterson said marauding bears can be thwarted by observing the set-out hours, removing bird feeders from March through November, keeping compost free of kitchen scraps, cleaning barbecue grills after each use, storing pet food in a secure place and removing fallen fruit.