Black Bear Study Presentation and Conclusion

CPW researcher to present bear-study report in Durango


DURANGO, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife Mammals Researcher Heather Johnson will make a presentation to the public about her six-year bear study, 6:30 p.m., Thursday (March 30) at the Durango library. The project has ended and this will be Johnson’s final presentation.

A preview of a new documentary, “Bears of Durango” will also be shown following Johnson’s presentation.

“I am so thankful for all people of Durango and La Plata County who helped to make this project possible,” Johnson said. “We’ve compiled an incredible dataset that is providing important insight into how bears are responding to human development.”

The goals of the study, which started in 2011, were to develop a better understanding of how bear populations use urban areas, determine how to reduce bear-human conflicts and to improve techniques for estimating bear numbers and population trends. Durango was selected for the study because it is surrounded by high-quality bear habitat that is directly adjacent to urban development.

Johnson will talk in detail about what was learned during the study. The project is the most comprehensive research ever conducted in Colorado to examine bear-human interactions and the impacts of urbanization on bear populations.

During the study, Johnson and her crew tagged more than 430 different bears. Female bears were trapped and fitted with GPS tracking collars. That allowed researchers to track the animals throughout the year, and to find dens and identify the number of cubs and yearlings.

Also as part of the project, 1,100 bear-resistant trash cans were distributed to neighborhoods in Durango.


Patt Dorsey, Southwest Region manager for CPW, said Durango was fortunate to be picked as the location for the project.

“Heather Johnson is a phenomenal researcher and her work has contributed greatly to our understanding of bears and how they interact with the human population,” Dorsey said. “We are looking forward to seeing the analyses, and we are going to miss Heather, her crew and the ongoing excitement associated with this project.”

The “Bears of Durango” documentary is being made by Dusty Hulet, a Utah filmmaker who has done work for PBS, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and other organization. Hulet followed the local bear project for six years.

CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 42 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.


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