The most important tip for all campers is to keep a clean campsite to avoid attracting bears or other wildlife.
Bears go into campgrounds because food is often available around tents, camp trailers and dumpsters. The potential for conflicts increases when food brings bears and humans into close contact. "Bears are built to eat and their sense of smell is incredible," explained Ron Dobson, a district wildlife manager in the Salida area. "They can smell food from miles away, they'll travel to find it and that's when they get into trouble." In a natural setting, bears would just as soon avoid people, but bears that learn to associate humans with food begin to lose their natural fear of people. "Food conditioned" bears can become aggressive and often end up being euthanized. Dobson says black bears are not naturally aggressive toward humans, but are actually very shy creatures. "However, bears are on a mission to find food," he explained. "Campers need to take precautions to avoid problems for themselves, for nearby campers and the next people who use the same camp site." He suggests campers never leave food or garbage behind and always pack out their trash. Here are a few other tips for campers in bear country:
• Keep a clean site and clean up thoroughly after every meal;
• After grilling, allow the fire to completely burn food scraps and grease off the grill.
• Do not eat in your tent or keep food or items that smell of food in your tent;
• Store unused food and garbage in secure containers out of the reach of bears and away from your sleeping area;
• Secure pet food as you would human food.
• Don't leave food that would attract birds or any wildlife in campgrounds. If you see others in the campground feeding wildlife, contact the campground host.
• If you see a bear in a campground, report it to the local DOW office as soon as possible.
• If you come in close contact with a bear, talk to it firmly and make yourself look as large as possible. Back away slowly, but do not run.
• Teach children and others who might be unfamiliar with bears about bear safety.
For more information about camping in bear country, go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/LivingWithWildlife/Mammals/HikeCampBearCountry.htm. Additional information about coexisting with bears can be found at http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/LivingWithWildlife/.