MOSCA—Visitors and employees have observed an increase in black bears in the developed areas at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in recent days.
The lack of food source as a result of drought conditions is a contributing factor to an increase in black bears in the developed areas of the park. As a result, staff at Great Sand Dunes are urging visitors to help them protect black bears by being more diligent with food storage.
It’s critical that every visitor safely store food, toiletries, and trash whether they are enjoying the park for an afternoon picnic, staying overnight in the Pinon Flats Campground, or enjoying a multi-day trip at a backcountry campsite. Day users and campers are strongly encouraged to keep picnic tables clean and utilize bear proof trash cans, securing food and trash, and never feeding any wild animal. These steps are the best ways to keep wildlife wild. If visitors are caught violating these regulations they can receive a violation notice.
Park staff are also using this as an opportunity to educate the public on the diet and habitat of black bears and proper safety measures to take when hiking and backpacking in the national park. Rangers at the Entrance Station and Visitor Center will provide visitors with literature on proper food storage to eliminate encounters. Backpackers will receive information on how to store food, trash, and toiletries when receiving their free backcountry permit at the Visitor Center. Visitors will also be able to attend daily ranger-led programs about this unique animal that calls Great Sand Dunes their home. “Informing our visitors of black bears and how to interact in black bear country will greatly enhance the survival of black bear populations in the state of Colorado”, says Superintendent Lisa Carrico.
Most importantly, visitors should report any sightings of bears to park rangers at the Visitor Center, or Entrance Station. This information is vital to tracking the location and behavior of black bear populations and informs park staff on how to manage wildlife in the park.
The Park has also reminded private residences in bear country to implement precautions as they can play a major role in keeping bears wild and away from houses and camps. Outdoor trash containers should be bear-proof, or stored inside garages or other bear-proof areas. Park neighbors who would like suggestions for improving the bear-preparedness of their residence are invited to call Park Ranger John White at 378-6322.