Campsites Seeing an Increase in Bear Activity in Boulder, Clear Creek and Larimer Counties

Colorado Parks & Wildlife and the United States Forest Service have observed increasing human-bear issues on Roosevelt National Forest Service campgrounds and areas where people are dispersed camping in Boulder, Clear Creek, and Larimer Counties.

Specifically, the increased reports of bears getting into improperly stored food in trees in Boulder County is coming from Lost Lake, Ceran St. Vrain and the Middle St. Vrain Creek drainage upstream from Camp Dick,  Olive Ridge and Meeker Overflow campgrounds; Beaver Reservoir road dispersed camping area, Rock Creek road dispersed camping area and Crater Lakes in James Peak Wilderness. Additional issues have come from the Pawnee Campground at Brainard Lake with a bear that entered unoccupied tents containing scented items such as sunscreen, bug spray and marijuana. Other reports of bear activity include West Chicago Creek, Columbine and Pickle Gulch in Clear Creek County and multiple reports in Dowdy, West Lake and Chambers Lake in Larimer County.

“I’m not sure why but we have seen a significant increase in bears seeking food in tents, backpacks, and camps in general in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests,” said Kristin Cannon, area wildlife manager for CPW. “People planning on camping in this area should be extra cautious and take care to store food, trash and toiletries in provided bear lockers or canisters. These items should never be stored in a tent, especially not this summer.”

“It is important to know how to act in bear country. Remember you are responsible for your own safety and knowing what to do when recreating alongside bears and other wildlife,” said Forest Supervisor Monte Williams. “We appreciate every user taking extra precautions.”

CPW is also receiving a high number of second- and third hand-reports of bears entering tents and encourages anyone who has experienced this or other behaviors of bears getting into trash cans or breaking into cars to report it immediately. That can be done by calling our Denver office at 303-291-7227, Colorado State Patrol at 303-239-4501, or for emergencies 911.

In established campgrounds, people should use the secure bear lockers that are provided. In dispersed camping areas, especially in the backcountry, they need to take a bear canister with them. Bear canisters are available for purchase and rental at several outdoor goods locations. When camping in bear country, the easiest way to avoid bears is to ensure you have no attractants at your campsite. Whether car camping or hiking into the backcountry, there are actions you can take to minimize your chances of an encounter.

  • Safely store food: If it smells good enough to eat, a bear will try to eat it. Store food, beverages and toiletries in airtight containers and place in provided campsite lockers, or use bear-proof containers stored at least 150 yards away from your tent. A last resort option would be to lock it in your trunk.
  • Scented items: If it has a scent, it would interest a bear. Know that items as simple as sunscreen, hand sanitizer or chap stick could lure a bear in. Never bring food or anything with a scent into your tent.
  • Stash your trash: If a campground provides bear-proof trash receptacles, use them often to keep your campsite clean. If no trash receptacles are available, double bag your trash and lock it in your vehicle, or use a bear-proof container when backpacking.
  • Keep it clean: Scrape grill grates after use, clean all dishes and utensils, and ensure you have cleaned up any waste near your site.
  • Lock it up: Be sure your car or RV windows are closed and your vehicles are locked whenever you leave your site or before going to sleep at night.
  • Follow signs (and instincts): Whether printed signs or natural signs such as tracks or scat, if you have evidence that a bear has been in the area recently, leave and choose another campsite. If a bear is seen in your camp, try your best to haze it away with loud noises such as yelling, banging pots and pans together or using your car horn or an air horn. Be sure to notify the campground host when in a developed campground, Colorado Parks and Wildlife when dispersed camping and other nearby campers.