Bear Smart Durango is taking a new approach to keeping human food from bears as they prepare for hibernation.
The nonprofit launched a campaign to raise $60,000 by the end of the year to help reduce human-bear conflicts in La Plata County.
Bear Smart plans to hire a part-time coordinator for its fruit-gleaning program and a part-time compliance officer to monitor trash cans.
A $10,000 challenge grant from The Payroll Department in Durango kick-started the campaign, said campaign coordinator Beth Lamberson.
“The Payroll really got the ball rolling for us,” she said. “Bear Smart has never done anything like this before. With what’s happening with bears accessing human trash, this is really a critical moment for us right now.”
A challenge grant is made directly to a nonprofit if it raises a predetermined quantity of money.
Through the website rally.org, Bear Smart is asking for donations and hoping to double the amount of the $10,000 challenge grant, which would then raise a total of $30,000.
“We will approach the remaining $30,000 through corporate sponsorships and larger individual gifts from high-capacity donors who have shown interest,” Lamberson said.
Lamberson said remaining money will go into direct support for Bear Smart and specific purchases, such as electric fencing and bear-proof trash cans to loan to county residents.
“The nonprofit gave away its last bear-resistance trash can last month,” said Bryan Peterson of Bear Smart.
The nonprofit has 40 trash cans that it loans to residents.
Donations are expected to carry over into the next year, Lamberson said.
“The fact that some of this investment will spill over to next year is great,” she said. “It will set us up for some of our projects next year.”
In August, across the region from Pagosa Springs to Cortez, 10 bears had to be killed, six were shot by landowners and 15 were killed crossing roads, said Matt Thorpe of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.