Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say a mountain lion ate a colt near Cedaredge last week, and they have shot a bear that killed some 40 chickens near Paonia. When wildlife are a danger to livestock or people, it’s up to the state’s Parks and Wildlife agency to put them down. Last year about 45 wild animals were shot or euthanized in the Muddy Creek area of Delta and Gunnison counties – mostly for predation of sheep.
Last week a female black bear, about two years old, hit two chicken farms in the area. The bear first invaded a small chicken pen on Rogers Mesa, and like many bears, it was initially attracted by garbage. Kirk Madariaga is Paonia’s district wildlife officer.
“The bear got into the trash a couple nights while it was there,” says Madariaga, “and also got into the chicken pen just one night. And then it moved down the river to Paonia and it got into that chicken pen over a six-night period, five times. And killed chickens each time, and looked like it was actually hauling the chickens down to the river bottom into the brush to eat them. And it did have a few that it ate right there in the chicken coop, but there was also a trail of feathers that led right down into the brush pile where the bear was hanging around and sleeping during the day.”
“My speculation on this is that it probably was an orphan from last summer,” he says. “We had a sow killed in that same vicinity on the highway last summer, and we had a couple cubs that were hanging around that were acting kinda like they didn’t have a mother. And this bear was just the right age to be from last summer orphan cub, and ended up probably just was in the area and found some chickens and thought maybe I can get those, and they learn very very quickly, they’re very smart. Once they figure out how to get a certain food source, they’re going to stick with it, because they’re successful.”
The bear was tracked by the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, using dogs who picked up the scent at the chicken farm and didn’t have to go far.
According to Madariaga, “We started right at the chickens where the bear left the chicken pen, right on its trail, and it was within 100 yards of the chicken pen, where it was bedded down, and the dogs followed it, probably a good three miles up Terror Creek to the north.”
Adult black bears – even those who are termed “small” – are as big as adult humans.
“This two year old that was killed last week,” says Madariaga “was maybe 120-125 pounds, up to the real real big ones, about 500 pounds. And the average is maybe around 200-250.”
Wildlife officers say that owners of small livestock should secure their animals in sturdy enclosures at night, and at dusk and dawn to protect them from bears as well as mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and raccoons. And Madariaga has some advice for us.
“Be very careful about garbage, barbecue grills, keep them clean, try to keep them away from where a bear can get them. Bird feeders, hummingbird and seed feeders, are an attractant to bears. Mulch piles, compost piles will definitely attract bears.”
For KVNF News, I’m Marty Durlin cleaning up my compost and securing my gate.