Colorado Black Bears (ursus americanus)

The Colorado Division of Wildlife publishes and distributes pamphlets at hiking trailheads as part of their effort to support both wildlife and recreation. The first pamphlet I picked up was for Colorado Black Bears. The following is a summary of that pamphlet. Similar information plus pictures can be found at the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Camping & Hiking in Bear Country web site. It is important for fishermen and hunters to purchase their corresponding licenses because they are a source of funding for Division of Wildlife.

Colorado Black Bear (ursus americanus)

Black bears are the only bears to reside in Colorado with an estimated population of 8,000 to 12,000. They are strong swimmers, can run 35 mph, can climb trees, and can live to be 20 years old. They sport many colors including black, brown, honey, cinnamon, and blonde. Adult males are larger than females with males weighing 275 lbs and females weighing 175 lbs with both capable of standing five feet tall.

Tips for Hikers, Bikers, and Campers

Colorado Black Bears are most active during the mornings and evenings from April to October. They hibernate from November to March. In addition, they will move to lower elevations in the spring to find nutritious plants not covered by snow. In the fall, they spend a lot time in berry patches and will eat almost anything. They primarily eat plants (90%) supplemented by a limited amount of meat (10%).

Tips for Hikers and Bikers. Black Bears can be identified on trails by large droppings that include berries, seeds, animal hair, and plant leafs. In addition, their tracks can be recognized with five toes on each foot with their front feet being short and stout and their back feet being long and narrow (i.e., similar to human feet). They like to rub against trees leaving hair as evidence and to tear apart old fallen trees. Finally, you are most likely to startle a Black Bear near streams, brushy areas, and on twisty trails.

Tips for Campers. Food and garbage are the primary sources of bear-human conflict. Bears are attracted to any object with food smells including clothes, tents, tables, grills, and camp stoves. Thus, it is important to remove all traces of food smells by cleaning up your camp site, by disposing of food in bear-proof trashcans, and by putting food in containers inside your car trunk or suspended 10 feet in the air. Finally, it is recommended that you securely store all toiletries with your food, maintain personal hygiene, and limit sexual activity.

Tips for Bear Encounters:

  • Do not panic including do not run, climb a tree, nor make eye contact
  • Slowly back away providing the bear plenty of room to leave; hikers should move downhill and off the trail
  • Keep dogs leashed at all times and children by your side
  • If the bear is a good distance away, then talk loud enough to make sure the bear knows you are there
  • If the bear is close, then stand your ground, talk softly, and show no fear
  • Do not approach bear cubs
  • A bear may stand up or move closer to you in an effort to harmlessly smell you
  • If a bear does attack you, then fight back with rocks, sticks, tools, and your bare hands

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