Three recent bear encounters in Douglas County neighborhoods have officials exploring the best ways to respond to the growing public safety issue. …
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Three recent bear encounters in Douglas County neighborhoods
have officials exploring the best ways to respond to the growing
public safety issue.
Homeowners in the Escavera section of the Woodlands development
in Castle Rock were captivated by the presence of a mother bear and
two young cubs last week. The family climbed up a tree June 29 and
seemed to enjoy all of the attention from below before scurrying
into the brush. Wildlife officers tracked the bears and relocated
them to an undisclosed location when they did not leave the
neighborhood by the following day.
A notification system typically used to warn residents about
severe weather was utilized during a bear sighting near University
and Colorado boulevards in Highlands Ranch in mid-May. It told
homeowners to stay indoors with their children and pets, but the
alert had the opposite effect and people swarmed from their homes
in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the yearling bear.
Fran Santagata, director of emergency management for Douglas
County, reported July 1 to the Douglas Board of County
Commissioners, saying a public awareness campaign should be
launched to underscore the importance of keeping a safe distance
from bears that stroll into residential areas.
“This is not Jellystone,” Santagata said, referring to the
fictional park that was home to cartoon character Yogi Bear. “The
last thing we want is for a bear to attack a kid, which I could see
happening [if this continues].”
Wildlife officers determined that the bear did not pose a threat
to humans and allowed it to wander from the area on its own, said
Jennifer Churchill, spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of
However, just more than one month later, on June 26, another
young male bear walked into Highlands Ranch and climbed a tree on
Ramshead Court, just a few yards from Lincoln Avenue.
Officials decided against using the emergency alert system, but
responding officers still had trouble controlling the crowd and
cordoned off the scene so wildlife personnel could safely
tranquilize and remove the bear. The drowsy animal fell from the
tree, landing on a trampoline and breaking it.
Unless bears have young, are near busy roads or act
aggressively, officers try to allow the bear to leave the area
before tranquilizing it. The animals are taken a “good distance
that will prevent them from coming back to town,” Churchill
Churchill said she is not overly concerned about the increased
frequency of bear sightings in Douglas County
“They can wind up in strange places, but for the most part,
black bears are not aggressive,” she said.
While it is best for residents to avoid the area and allow
wildlife officers to monitor the bear, the added attention can have
an indirect benefit. The bears are more likely to stay put when
more people are present, enabling trackers to keep a close eye on
State wildlife leaders are unsure why the bears are descending
on neighborhoods at this time of year. One guess is that male
yearlings are being ousted from the den by the mother bear and are
searching for new territory. Another theory is the animals are
using their strong sense of smell to search for discarded food or
It is unclear if officers who responded to the Escavera sighting
found any attractants that might have lured the bears. The division
of wildlife warns the public about placing birdfeeders in their
yard; there are ways to attract birds without putting out food,
Those who live in or near bear habitats should keep garage doors
closed and avoid leaving trash outside. Residents should also
regularly clean their barbecue grills. For more information, visit
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