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Bear Aware: Springtime Sightings in Glenwood Springs

Bears are waking up in the Colorado high country, including Glenwood Springs. As visitors repopulate the trails and terrain around the hot springs town, be bear aware with these tips and information.

Springtime Stirrings

As the snow recedes and the native grasses and wildflowers begin to bloom, reports of bear sightings increase. The furry ursine creatures that roam the high country around Glenwood Springs are black bears. Black refers to the species, not the color. Black bears can of course be black, but also various shades of brown as well. After a long hibernation, bears are emerging from their winter slumber, and they’re hungry. With their tummies rumbling, they’re on the lookout for their first meals of the season.

Black Bears at a Glance

Although black bears are categorized as carnivores, they mostly enjoy a vegetarian diet, feeding on natural food sources like grasses and buds to kickstart their digestive systems after months of hibernation. Later in the season, they feast on ripened berries, fruits, nuts, and mature plants. They also enjoy eating insects and dining on the occasional animal carcass. Black bears are smart and curious, but generally shy and wary of people. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), their normal response to any perceived danger is to run away or climb a tree. Adult males can tip the scale close to 300 pounds, while their female counterparts weigh in at around 175 pounds.

Bad News For Bears

Another fun fact about black bears is their incredible sense of smell. With a nose that is 100 times more sensitive than ours, a bear can sniff out food up to five miles away. That’s great when it comes to finding a stash of serviceberries, but not when they find the remnants of a human lunch left on the trail. Bears have an excellent memory and return to sites where they have found food in the past. That’s why they can be a nuisance, getting into trash cans filled with the odiferous remains of meals. Unfortunately for the bears, dumpster diving and trailside noshing create human-bear conflicts. In almost every instance, bears lose. To ensure human safety, a bear that is a nuisance is tagged, and repeat offenders are captured and killed by CPW officers. Cartoon Yogi Bear and his sidekick Boo Boo might have outwitted Ranger Smith, but in real life, feeding the bears is always bad news for them.

Black Bear Encounter Safety Tips

The trails around Glenwood Springs are well-loved, with people and leashed pets enjoying the great outdoors on hikes all around town. That’s good news! Bears will naturally keep their distance from humans. The odds of seeing a bear while hiking is relatively low, but possible especially from March through November when they are active.

Be a Happy Camper

When camping in bear country, it’s important to prioritize bear safety to minimize any potential encounters. Bears love to forage through campsites and even vehicles. Alongside storing food in airtight containers, consider hanging food from a sturdy tree branch at least 10-15 feet above the ground and 4-6 feet away from the trunk. When choosing a campsite, opt for areas away from known bear habitats and trails. While sleeping, store scented items such as toothpaste, sunscreen, and insect repellent in your bearproof container away from your tent to minimize tempting odors where you’re sleeping. By following these precautions, you can kick back and your camping experience safely and responsibly in bear country.

What to do if you encounter a black bear?

1. Don’t approach or feed a bear.
2. Remain calm and avoid eye contact which can be perceived as a threat.
3. Don’t run.
4. If you see cubs, mom is probably nearby. Leave the area immediately.
5. Make loud noises and make yourself look big. If you’re with other people, group together to appear even larger.
6. If the bear acts aggressively, back away slowly.
7. Deploy bear spray if the situation escalates.
8. In the rare instance that a bear attacks, fight back.

As springtime beckons visitors onto the trails around Glenwood Springs, it’s important to remember that we share this stunning landscape with majestic creatures. While encountering a bear might seem intimidating, in most instances they’ll be running away from you. If there is an unexpected encounter, following these simple safety tips can ensure a positive outcome for both humans and bears alike. Happy hiking! Learn more and make plans to visit Glenwood Springs today!

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Visit Glenwood Springs

Reservations to hike Hanging Lake are released on a weekly basis every Tuesday at 8:00 am MDT. 

 Visit the Hanging Lake page HERE for more information and the booking portal.