This summer’s record breaking drought in the United States has killed off much of the food bears depend on, and the bruins have begun widening their range looking for something to eat. Drought-starved bears in Colorado have taken to burglarizing candy stores, kitchens, campsites and hotel bars. A bear wandered through a farmer’s market in downtown Aspen.
In April, a 280-pound black bear wandered on to the University of Colorado campus, climbed a tree and had to be tranquilized. Made locally famous as it was caught on film falling to the ground, it was relocated to a wilderness area about 50 miles west of Boulder. A week later, the same bear wandered onto a highway and was hit by two cars and killed.
A spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife said that the state lacks a sufficient wilderness area to accommodate all the bears that wander into heavily populated areas. And a relocated bear often views the area where it was captured as its home range and does its best to return.
Once a bear hits town and they start getting to food sources, they become a “town bear.”
“A lot of them just don’t seem to care, anymore,” said a local sheriff. “They’re just wandering around.”
The increase in bear mischief is being reported across the country. From New York’s Catskills to Kentucky’s Appalachians, bears are moving into habited areas looking for food before winter falls.
Bears are not the only animals affected. The devastating drought that has effected much of the country has killed off grasses and other feed that a wide variety of wild species depend on. Wildlife officials across the country are worried about mass starvation among elk and deer populations. The problem is especially dire in the central and southern Great Plains. Sixty-three percent of the continental U.S. remains in a state of moderate to extreme drought.