Cortez is the latest Montezuma County town to report multiple bear sightings within city limits this summer.
Animal control officer Lari Ann Pope said a resident sent her a surveillance video of a bear crossing their front porch Tuesday morning on North Market Street. This was the third bear sighting report she’d had in the past month, she said, although it was the first time anyone had caught one of the animals on video. Just like in Dolores and other areas that have seen bear trouble recently, Pope warned Cortez residents not to leave trash and other edible items out where an ursine visitor could find it.
“We live in bear and mountain lion country, and we’re going to see bears and mountain lions,” she said. “I just want people to be aware that they’re out there, and to be safe.”
Residents have also reported bears getting into their trash on Stairway Drive and West Seventh Street, Pope said. She advised residents to their trash out early in the morning, rather than the night before pickup, and not to leave food items in cars or on porches overnight. Bears also go after bird feeders, so she advised residents to keep those inside at night.
While having a dumpster knocked over by a bear is a nuisance, Pope said, she’s even more concerned about the possibility that people might get too close to one of the animals and end up being hurt. She said she’s had to warn people away from the area while responding to bear sightings in the past.
“People, especially young people, tend to congregate around these bears,” she said.
That’s never a good idea, she said. She advised residents to stay away if they see a bear in town.
Animal control officers will respond to reports of bear sightings, Pope said, but they can’t always do much to prevent bears from causing property damage. She said her training is limited when it comes to large predators.
Several populated areas in Montezuma County have had unwanted visits from bears this summer. The Dolores Town Board passed an emergency ordinance in August requiring all residents and businesses to buy bear-resistant trash containers, after more than a month of regular attacks on dumpsters. Mesa Verde National Park also stepped up its bear safety education program for visitors in August. On Aug. 22, a Montezuma County sheriff’s deputy killed a bear after a resident wounded it with a gun on County Road 24.4. The animal had reportedly entered a shed and taken some chicken feed.