Bear sightings and conflicts in Colorado plummeted in 2021

Bear sightings and conflicts were down 28% statewide in 2021 compared with the previous two years — and much of the activity could be traced to driest parts of Colorado.

Bears rely on grasses, berries, fruits, nuts and plants for their diet, all of which are dependent on moisture.

“One of the biggest things that determines what level of bear activity we are going to see as far as human-bear conflicts is whether we get good monsoonal summer moisture,” Adrian Archuleta, a CPW area wildlife manager, said in the release. “That is really critical in order to make the berries and acorns pop. In years where we get good moisture and the food mast is readily available and abundant, we don’t tend to have as much interactions and conflict. In years where it is very dry or we have a freeze event, a late frost, it can be very detrimental.”

On the eastern side of the Continental Divide — which experienced plenty of moisture during the winter spring and early summer — bear reports were down nearly 40% over the previous two years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a Monday news release. The southwest part of the state also saw a 51.2% decrease in bear reports.

The northwest corner of Colorado, which has suffered from extreme drought, told a different story.

The 1,834 bear reports filed from the northwest in 2021 was 192 more than in 2020 — though that number was down from 2,146 in 2019.

Bears trying to access trash is the leading cause of conflict, wildlife officials said, while other reasons include birdfeeders, livestock and open garages.

State wildlife officials euthanized and relocated far fewer bears last year than in 2020. Sixty-six bears were euthanized in 2021, and 51 were relocated, down from 158 and 118 in 2020.

Colorado sports between 17,000 and 20,000 bears, officials said, a population that is stable and growing.

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