There are an estimated 20,000 bears in Colorado -- what would you do if you saw one in your backyard? Or maybe up close and personal?
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has a few ideas, and they're getting the word out via YouTube. That's a good thing, because according to Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for the agency, people are likely to behave inappropriately when they come face to face with bears.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people get really excited. They grab their phone and just take pictures,” Churchill said. “It makes for cute videos, but it’s really not good for the animals. They get very comfortable near people. And that’s when they get into trouble.”
Here's some headlines that capture the problem:
As Colorado’s population grows, the chance for conflict rises as more people live and play in the bear country. Bears are naturally scared of people, but sometimes they need to be reminded why.
“Grab the pots and pans, bang on the windows, yell,” Churchill said. “Be obnoxious. It’s really important that our wild animals have a healthy, natural fear of people. And so we need to help instill that in them."
Also, bears also instinctively chase, so it’s best not to run if you come across one.
“You really should stand your ground,” Churchill said. “You should talk quietly and you should say, ‘Hey bear, I’m not here to bother you. I’m going to get out of your way.’ Try to be calm and back out of the area. If you run, they may chase you.”
Reminder: You can't outrun a bear.
Last year in Colorado, a lot of bad weather in bear country meant there was less wild food for them to forage. That's meant more bear-human encounters.
“We’ve got some bears that have gotten really good at opening car doors and getting in there,” Churchill said. “But I think overall our bears have natural food this year, and they are in a little less trouble than previous years. And that kind of ebbs and flows.”
Conflicts with bears in Colorado have not risen, but Churchill says it's important to get the message out to new residents and visitors.
“They’re excited to see a bear, that’s kind of part of the fun of coming to Colorado,” Churchill said. “But we don’t want people seeing bears hanging around garbage cans or trying to get into cabins. It’s much better to see them in the wild than see them in the trash.”