HomeOutdoorsNewsCPW Putting $1 Million Towards Colorado’s Big Human-Bear Conflict Problem

CPW Putting $1 Million Towards Colorado’s Big Human-Bear Conflict Problem

by Jon D. B.
human-bear conflicts in Colorado
A 175-pound female black bear sits on the deck of an Iris Court home on Tuesday afternoon. The bear spent the day eating and sleeping in north Boulder back yards until the Division of Wildlife tranquilized and moved it to Arapaho National Forest outside Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Mark Leffingwell/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)

After the success of previous programs, a further $1 million in funding from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) will help reduce human-bear conflicts in 2023.

Even with the amount of human-bear conflicts we have in eastern Tennessee, a state organization putting $1 million towards treating the cause feels more than far-fetched. The difference for Colorado is the sheer volume of bear conflict reports flooding in each year.

“We saw enough success from that program last year that we decided it was a worthwhile use of our internal resources to continue that program,” offers CPW spokesman Joey Livingston. Which means this year CPW will be fronting the $1 million from their own funding, too.

Colorado’s Human-Bear Conflict is Expansive, To Say the Least

On average, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) answers 500 to 1,000 calls each year regarding human-bear conflicts. The majority come from Sevier County, which includes major bear conflict hotspots like Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. Meanwhile, Middle and West TN remain bear-free.

Not so in Colorado. Research the full range of black bears in the western state, and there’s not a county left out. In kind, CPW received a staggering 4,282 total human-bear conflict calls in 2022. Some single counties, like Pitkin Co., hold over 700 bear reports alone. And trash remains the main attractant in the majority of reports.

Last year’s successful campaigns to held reduce bear-human conflict were paid for by Colorado state general funds (courtesy of a bill passed in 2021). For 2023, CPW is fronting the cost themselves from money gained through the sales of park passes, hunting and fishing licenses alongside federal grants, The Daily Sentinel reports.

Examples of success stories from 2022 include $206,539 awarded to the Durango-area initiative that purchased bear-resistant trash containers and paid the salary of a bear enforcement officer. In addition, a fruit gleaning coordinator was brought on to help reduce natural bear attractants. Each worked wonders in reducing human-bear conflicts in the area.

Similar projects across Colorado would spend 2022’s $1 million on electric fencing and bear-proof dumpsters. This year, local governments, businesses, Indigenous Tribes, homeowners’ associations, and even individuals can apply for CPW grants of varying size.

Reducing Bear-Human Conflict Helps Both

Such grants and programs aren’t only for protecting humans, but Colorado’s black bears, too. Often, it’s the bears that pay the price when conflicts arise. Mortality on humans from black bears is exceptionally rare in the U.S., so most of these incidents end with property damage, issues with pets, or superficial scratches on the human end.

For the bears, however, a much worse fate is possible. In Colorado alone, 94 black bears were euthanized in 2022 due to human-bear conflicts. 59 were re-located.

By comparison, only 61 people are known to have been killed by black bears in all of North America since 1900 (via North American Bear Center).

In kind, Colorado Parks and Wildlife relies on educating, deterring, and preventing human-bear conflicts with the public. And for 2023, they’re putting their own money where their mouth is in a big way.

CPW looks for the following in approving grants:

  • Projects that reduce bear attractants
  • Projects that enjoy local support or have detailed plans for building that support
  • Project that have the potential to hold long-lasting impact preventing human-bear conflicts
  • Projects that have proven techniques or explore innovative and promising measures

Colorado applications are due by May 5. More information on the grant program and applying for it can be found here on CPW’s website.