COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - This year seems to be more eventful than usual for bears in southern Colorado but the animals have now entered their most active season.
As fall approaches, bears eat and drink almost constantly — a condition called hyperphagia — to add weight for winter hibernation.
The condition often leads to more potentially dangerous bear-human contact, and an increase in bears rummaging through trash dumpsters, and around yards and restaurants seeking food.
Bears that eat human food can lose their taste for their natural diet, and also lose their fear of people.
Earlier this week in Aspen, a 400-pound bear attacked a human, biting a restaurant manager on the leg as he tried to scare animal away from an open restaurant dumpster. The animal was found still in town Friday, and was captured and euthanized.
It's the third bear attack in Aspen this year.
Last week in Colorado Springs, a local hiking area was temporarily closed after a threat posed by an aggressive bear. The animal was never found.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife says despite numerous confrontations with bear and people this year, the number of reports in the Pikes Peak region is average, with the department receiving calls about 461 bear sightings since April 1.
Cassidy English, a CPW manager, said there were three times as many sightings reported in 2017.
"That's because bad weather killed most of the bears' natural food sources," she said. "So we had bears living in town, combined with bears from the mountains, getting too close to people in an effort to find food."
English also said CPW euthanized 30 problem bears in the area in 2017 but have put down only four so far this year.
"We're asking people to be alert," she said. "Keep your trash contained, preferably in a bear-proof container. Keep your bird feeders inside until winter. Don't keep dog food out in the open. And don't encourage bears to stay on your property, no matter how cute they may be. Try to scare them away. Bang pots and pans, use an air horn or call us."
CPW has posted a video on its twitter page showing how the agency scares away captured problem bears, to teach them to fear humans. To see the video, visit https://twitter.com/COParksWildlife.
Colorado Springs is considering whether to follow Manitou Springs as requiring homeowners to have bear-proof containers.
According to a proposed City Council ordinance, homeowners west of Interstate 25 would be required to have the containers. Repeat violators could be fined up to $500.
Councilman Don Knight hosted a public meeting on the proposal Thursday. An estimated 40 people attended.
"Some people are concerned that the containers may be too expensive," he said. "One option is you can make your own. A second option is to put out your trash only between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. on your pickup day. We heard that some people's schedules may not allow them to do that."
Knight also said homeowners can put trash out but keep garbage contained until just before pickup, and some service providers can rent bear-proof containers for a small monthly fee.
"The goal is to not leave trash out all night where bears or other animals can easily get to it," he said. "I think most of the people at the public meetings generally support the ordinance and I think most of the City Council supports it."
The council plans to consider the issue next month, and could vote on it, as well. If approved, the ordinance would become effective March 1.
Sandra Matthews, a homeowner, has mixed feelings about the proposal.
"I don't agree with requiring people on one side of town to have the containers," she said. "Bears were never a problem until we started living in their territory. And a container isn't going to stop a bear from getting in your fruit tree."