As temperatures rise, so do your chances of encountering a black bear in the mountains and on your western Colorado ranch. These majestic animals have been in deep hibernation all winter long. With the warm spring air rolling in, the bears start to make their grand entrance back into forest society. Safety is key when it comes to interactions with large mammals, such as the Black Bear. At the end of this article you will find tips on how to live “bear aware” in the high country. But first, let’s talk about these glorious animals that reside in our beautiful state.
Colorado Ranch Wildlife - Black Bears: Living Bear Aware
Black Bear Habitat
The Black Bear population has increased immensely in the past decade. It is now estimated there are around 19,000 black bears in the state of Colorado. Although this sounds like a big number, your chances of running into them are still quite rare. Most bears stick to a lower level mountain forest elevation before hibernation, where there are plenty of fruits and nuts for them to forage on to beef up for their winter sleep. Their habitat range may span anywhere from 10 to 150 square miles, and gravitate toward areas with abundant food for them to eat.
Black Bear Mating Season
Every June is mating season for bears. Male bears start reproducing at the age of three, whereas females are not ready until they are five years old. The mother bear carries her fertilized egg for about 7 months. During this time an amazing process called delayed implantation happens. If the mother does not have enough fat reserves for the winter, her egg is reabsorbed and she will have to try again next mating season. If the egg does survive, the cubs will be born in their den during hibernation in late January. They remain with their mother for a year and a half to learn all they need to know for survival. After that time, they are independent enough to sustain themselves on their own and will separate from their mother, usually during the summer months.
Black Bear Mating Season
Hibernation begins for black bears in late October. During hibernation, bears do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate. It is quite amazing! Male bears can lose up to 30% of their body fat during hibernation, while lactating mothers can lose up to 40%. Male bears usually emerge from the den a couple weeks before females and cubs. This starts around Mid-March, which is why it is so important for you to be aware of your surroundings while out on your ranch during this time of year.
How To Be "Bear Aware"
During warmer months when bears are active, Colorado Parks and Wildlife strongly recommends putting away your bird feeders. Also, make sure to lock up your trash cans or store them in an area bears cannot access. Last, but not least, if you have an outdoor pet it would be best to move their food inside during the six months of bear activity. Bears are frequently attracted to wild animal feed, pet and people food, and trash. This means they will stroll onto your property in hopes of an easy meal if these food sources are available to them. This could result in a bear/human encounter, and can ultimately result in the injury or death of either party. Some other important tips:
- Pick ripe fruit before it falls, and remove any fruit that has already fallen to the ground
- Keep all windows and doors closed and locked – screens are flimsy barriers
- Clean your BBQ grill after each use and lock it down
- NEVER feed bears or allow any refuse or pet food to be eaten by bears
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By doing these simple things, you help keep bears wild and our state rich with this amazing wildlife. For other insight into wildlife commonly found on mountain ranches, check out the other blog posts on our site.
When you are in the market for a beautiful ranch to call your own, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you. Until then, stay bear aware!