Four bears in the region were killed in separate incidents Wednesday.
Two bears were shot by homeowners after the bears entered their homes, and two were tracked by Wildlife Services and euthanized, said Joe Lewandowski, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. A fifth bear was caught in a bear trap north of Durango but will be released.
A homeowner in Vallecito killed a bear after it entered the home through a second-story window. A homeowner in Pagosa Springs also killed a bear after it entered the home.
Wildlife Services euthanized two bears after one killed a llama in Cortez and one killed pigs and chickens in Pagosa Springs.
“We hate to have to euthanize a bear, but if a bear breaks into a house or kills livestock, that crosses a line,” Lewandowski said. “We’re talking about human safety.”
A bear north of town was caught in a trap Wednesday, but wildlife officers decided to tag its ear and transport it 50 to 60 miles away from Durango.
The decision about whether a captured bear should be euthanized comes down to the aggressiveness of the bear, Lewandowski said.
“If it breaks into a house, that makes the decision for us because then we’re talking about human safety,” he said. “If it’s knocking over garbage cans or causing problems in a neighborhood and it’s not being aggressive and showing some fear of people, that’s when we’ll trap and move it.”
In the last week, CPW received more than 100 calls about bear sightings that qualify as conflict situations. Conflict situations are what the agency uses to describe situations where bears pose a threat, such as rummaging near houses, knocking over garbage cans or peeking through windows, Lewandowski said.
“There’s a lot of activity,” he said. “It’s ramping up.”
Bear traps that were set out last week in Rafter J and Edgemont Highlands subdivisions were removed earlier this week without having caught any bears. The four traps were removed after CPW determined the bears wouldn’t return.
It’s typical to remove bear traps after a couple days to ensure that small animals don’t get caught in the trap, Lewandowski said. Usually, if a bear is causing problems in the area, it will be there for only a short amount of time.
Currently, there are at least three bear traps in Durango, Lewandowski said.
“Bears are busy,” he said. “It’s going to be a long summer with bears until we start getting some moisture.”
A freeze that occurred in the second week of June also affected bears.
Bryan Peterson of Bear Smart Durango said he believes the rise in human-bear conflicts are because of the dry weather. July is typically a rough month for bears because they are awaiting the acorn and berry season, which doesn’t occur until August.
“It’s that in-between season where vegetation that used to be beneficial to them is drying up,” he said. “There might have been some complacency over the last four years because bears had really good natural foods.”
Peterson also says the high number of bear-human interactions is because of the amount of human food available to bears.
The Fairfield Inn and Suites on U.S. Highway 160 west had a bit of a scare Tuesday night when a bear tried to walk into the lobby. The hotel’s automatic sensors opened the first set of doors, and the bear would have wandered into the lobby if the desk clerk hadn’t locked the second set of doors, General Manager Maggie Redman said.
With the installation of a bear-proof trash bin, the hotel hopes the bear, which has been lingering around the hotel for nearly a month now, will go elsewhere.