bear

A large black bear roams in a yard outside of Aspen in search of sustenance in this photo taken last September. While bruins usually hibernate this time of winter, the Aspen Police Department reports that it’s still getting calls about bear activity.

The Aspen Police Department is still receiving reports of bear activity in the city limits — more than 200 since mid-October — despite the winter months typically being the torpid season for bears, when they go into their annual monthslong slumber.

Last week alone, several citizens called about a sow and two cubs roaming around the West End.

While it’s become a matter of some controversy in the scientific community as to whether bears are “true hibernators,” they’re usually out of sight by this time of year, having bulked up for the winter.

They don’t do that to get out of the cold, Aspen Community Response Officer Ginna Gordon emphasized in a press release. In fact, there are areas of Colorado in which bears remain active year-round.

“It is the lack of food, not the winter cold weather, that puts the bears to sleep,” Gordon said. “If a bear is able to access food throughout the winter, this bear will continue to forage as these bears have done.”

Since berries and fish are no longer plentiful, that means human-sourced cuisine, she continued. And while trash has been a primary culprit in the more than 900 calls received in 2019 overall, bird feeders are a more common attractant this time of year, Gordon noted.

“One pound of birdseed contains approximately 2,500 calories, which is a solid Christmas-time meal in bear terms,” she said.

In Gordon’s ideal scenario, community members would entirely refrain from hanging bird feeders, but she acknowledged that’s not realistic.

“If you are adamant about using a bird feeder, a minimum standard is to keep the area below feeders clear of seed and hang feeders at a height that would prevent bears from reaching them,” she said.

Of course, as long as bears continue to be out and about, people should ensure that their bear-proof waste containers are secured and recyclables are well-rinsed, Gordon added.