With diverse projects throughout the Pikes Peak Region, many RMFI work sites require extensive time in the backcountry where encounters with wildlife are common place. Although coming across wildlife is often a beautiful experience, this year has proved challenging in dealing with one critter in particular; the black bear.
Over the course of this field season, RMFI staff has repeatedly interacted with black bears in project locations such as Kit Carson and Bear Creek. We even had a black bear perform a bluff charge while reviewing trail construction objectives at Red Rock Canyon Open Space! The increased frequency of encounters this year can be partially attributed to improper storage of food and trash by inexperienced outdoor enthusiasts. This is especially true where overnight camping is permitted. For instance, several groups in Willow Lake Basin below Kit Carson would simply hang trash bags from tree branches, leave food in non-bear resistant coolers, and rig inadequate bear hangs too close to the ground or adjacent trees. To their surprise, black bears are amazing climbers and are powerful enough to break into cars, let alone flimsy plastic coolers! An adolescent black bear inhabiting Willow Lake Basin this summer, which our field staff named Baloo, quickly discovered easy meals among the slew of campers looking to summit the iconic 14ers above. Despite RMFI’s best efforts to educate newcomers and haze Baloo by deploying pepper spray and throwing stones, the damage was done. Baloo had become too bold and habituated to humans. Unfortunately, he was put down by CPW last month.
With this tearful tale in mind, we must do our part to educate one another to prevent future loss of this majestic creature. When we lose a bear, we catalyze imbalance to our ecosystem and deplete a unique quality of Colorado’s wilderness. Below is a link to a great set of resources by Colorado Parks and Wildlife detailing how to live in bear country. Please share with others so we can keep Colorado’s black bears wild, free, and most importantly, alive…
(Above Photo: Black bear encountered by RMFI in Red Rock Canyon Open Space)