Just like agricultural crops, after a season of atypical weather, wild berries and nut yields are lower than usual. That means hungry wild bears trying to store up fat for winter hibernation, are looking in places they usually avoid for food sources.
Co-existing with wildlife worth the effort.
Deer enclosures at Aspen are surrounded by electric fencing to keep bears out.
Photo by Janalene Kingshott
The impetus is therefore on us all to make sure we don’t leave things out to attract them, leading to nuisance bears that end up destroying property, frightening people or getting unnecessarily shot.
Every year, there are instances of bears getting into carelessly stored garbage, restaurant grease traps, bird feeders, barbecues, cat and dog food, etc… In every instance, property owners who don’t put in the effort to responsibly make sure there are no food sources for the bears create problem bears.
Living and cottaging in bear country, it’s everyone’s responsibility to avoid leaving out food sources for bears, so we can co-exist with these wild animals whose territory we have encroached.
At Aspen, co-existing is a must.
Over 150 animals
Here, we are feeding more than 150 animals in outdoor enclosures where bears do anything and everything to get at that food. In some cases, if the bears could get in, the animals themselves could end up as prey.
We go to great measures to ensure food sources are secure, garbage is tucked away and to bear-proof all of our many enclosures.
Hiding garbage and food supplies is the easy part. Bear-proofing the enclosures is a constant challenge as we work to outwit the clever bears.
The result is a series of enclosures surrounded by boards with more than 10,000 nails sticking up, protecting more than 100 raccoons by making a walk close to there enclosures treacherous.
Around the deer enclosures, 12 strands of barbed wire and electric fence keep the hungry bears at bay.
The result is a series of enclosures that look a bit like a heavily protected war zone, making it a challenge for staff and volunteers who have to navigate the spikes, barbs and electric currents to feed and care for rehabilitating animals.
It’s also an expensive defense system for a non-profit organization that tries to get the most out of every dollar.
If anyone wants to prove people and animals can co-exist, it’s Aspen, so we make every effort to make sure wild bears in our area don’t learn that people provide a great source for food.
It’s something everyone should strive to avoid. If we can do it, so can you.
(These articles are contributed by staff at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with a mandate to educate the public towards a better understanding of local fauna.)