A University of Colorado student is utilizing an online bear-related survey as part of her master's thesis on human-bear conflicts in the area, the results of which she hopes can be used to support the efforts of various organizations involved in bear management.
Melanie Hill is a Master of Arts candidate in media and public engagement at CU's College of Media, Communication and Information.
"What I'm doing is exploring the use of community engagement, organizational collaboration and visual storytelling to see how we can reduce human-bear conflicts," Hill said. "It focuses on using different media strategy plans. My executed project is going to be bearsandpeople.com."
The website is not yet live.
Hill's survey, however, went live on Friday and poses participants a variety of bear-related questions regarding people's level of comfort around bears in different situations, whether they are proud to have bears in Boulder County and if they've even seen a bear.
Hill said the survey is anonymous and she doesn't collect personal data, but she wants to get a representative sample of Boulder County. It takes about 10 minutes.
Some of the questions are more specific to the areas of west Boulder that are subject to the Bear Protection Ordinance. Boulder requires residents west of Broadway and south of Sumac to keep all trash in bear-resistant cans or indoors under penalty of stiff fine.
Bears will come down into the city looking for food in the summer and their visits are usually uneventful. Sometimes they will climb up into trees and go to sleep, and volunteer "bear sitters" will stand by until the bears climb down and leave.
Hill said she volunteers as a bear sitter — people who keep an eye on the animals when they come down from the mountains — and she's learned that education is important when it comes to safe bear and human interactions.
"We have so many people moving to and out of Boulder," she said. "It's hard to keep up on education and people's understanding of living with bears and other wildlife varies widely."
The survey is available at bit.ly/bearsurvey.