Bears returning to San Juans

Warm weather is bringing a large number of local residents out of hibernation. As spring arrives in Durango, black bears are returning to the urban interface and local residents are urged to take precautions.

“During the summer, a bear’s primary concern is finding food,” said Albert Romero, a Colorado Division of Wildlife District Manager. “It’s a lot easier to get calories from a trash can than to forage bite-by-bite. The problem is that an easy meal provided by a careless person can cause a bear to lose its natural fear of humans.”

Garbage, pet food, bird seed and greasy barbecue grills are all common bear attractants. Inside of town, unsecured restaurant dumpsters can quickly become targets for bears. Once a bear becomes habituated to human food and loses its fear of people, it can present a risk to public safety and frequently must be euthanized.

While many bears are still hibernating, a few have been spotted in Crested Butte, Aspen and Boulder. In Aspen, Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright said he is seeing signs of careless human behavior. “I was driving through residential areas last week and noticed many trash bins without locks and other poor practices,” he said. “We really want people to take care of their trash and other attractants so we don’t have to deal with problems later.”

Under the Division’s two-strike bear policy, a problem bear that can’t be driven from a conflict area may be tranquilized, given an ear tag and relocated. If a tagged bear gets into trouble a second time, wildlife managers must put the animal down. Eighteen bears were euthanized in the Durango area last year, a relatively light season for human-bear conflict.

The Division offers simple precautions to reduce or eliminate chances of having conflicts with bears: put out garbage cans on the morning of pick-up; keep garbage in a secure building or a bear-resistant container; and wash garbage cans regularly with ammonia to eliminate food odors. In addition, the DOW encourages residents to clean outdoor grills after each use, remove bird feeders and bring hummingbird feeders in at night.Durangoans have another opportunity to brush up on their bear smarts this week. The Back Space Theatre, in partnership with Bear Smart Durango, will present a showing of “In The Company of Bears” this Thurs., March 31 at 6 p.m. The film is part of a tour of films from the International Wildlife Film Festival and examines the relationship between people and bears, through the eyes and experiences of Canadian black bear researcher Michael Allen. A second film, “A Woman Among Wolves,” will follow after a brief intermission. Admission is free for Bear Smart Durango members. For more information, go to

Local riders off to Pan Am finals

A few of Durango’s finest are pedaling into the deep south this weekend. Several local racers are among the U.S. contingent heading to the Pan American Mountain Bike Championships on April 1-3 in Bogota, Colombia.

“The Continental Championships are a good chance for all of our riders to pick up valuable UCI points,” said USA Cycling Mountain Bike Director Marc Gullickson. “Especially the elite men’s cross country squad, who will use this as an opportunity to boost our nation’s ranking as we try to qualify the maximum three riders for the Olympic men’s cross country race in London.”

Durango’s Todd Wells, currently ranked 10th in cross-country in the world, earned an automatic nomination. He’ll be lining up alongside Boulder’s Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Sam Schultz and Adam Craig. Wells’ brother Troy, also of Durango, earned a berth at the games as a discretionary selection. While Durango’s Willow Koerber declined her automatic nomination for the women’s elite squad, another local rider with a gravity bent made the cut.

Durango’s Heikki Hall, a Professional Mountain Bike Gravity Tour standout, will line up in the men’s downhill competition and stands a strong chance of cracking the top 10. “I expect our gravity team to be one of, if not, the strongest team at the event,” Gullickson said.

Last but not least, another Durangoan will be making the trek to Bogota. Tom Neb, owner of the recently opened San Juan Cycles and former Team Giant mechanic, will be wrench at the Pan American Championships. Though it will mean closed doors at his shop on North Main, Neb is excited for a stint back on the race circuit.

Durangoans can follow the action in Columbia online at

Seasonal wildlife closures lifted

Singletrack is surfacing around Durango, and seasonal wildlife closures have been lifted. Trails on Animas Mountain and Grandview Ridge will reopen April 1 in conjunction with the arrival of spring and return of wildlife forage at higher elevations.Closed to provide refuge for wintering wildlife, the BLM lands are reopened when biologists have determined that snowmelt at higher elevations will allow big-game herds to return to the high country. However, many deer and some elk will continue to use the lower areas until early summer, and those hiking with dogs are asked to stay on marked trails and keep pets leashed to minimize impacts.

“Early spring is when deer and elk are at their most vulnerable to disturbance from human intrusions, because they’ve found little to eat all winter and had to battle through deep snows,” said Chris Schultz, Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist.

BID to host Town Hall meeting

The Durango Business Improvement District (BID) is reaching out to the Durango public this week. As part of its ongoing mission to enhance “Business in the BID,” a Town Hall for constituents and any interested citizens will meet on Thurs., March 31. The brown-bag lunch runs from noon-1:30 p.m. at the Henry Strater Theatre.

“We’re hoping that a forum like this will provide a more convenient opportunity for everyone to receive an update on the activities of BID and develop new ideas,” said Bob Allen, BID presiding officer. “We all have the same goal: maintaining the economic viability of Durango.”Reservations are appreciated but not required. To RSVP or for further information, contact 375-5067.

– Will Sands



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