Wild neighbors worry city

In-town predator sightings cause some concerns

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— Steamboat Springs city officials are concerned about recent wildlife sightings in the city limits and urge residents to take precautions to discourage animal visitors.

This summer, residents have complained about the number of cats that have died in the mountain area and fear animal predators are the cause.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Councilwoman Kathy Connell said the issue hit close to home when her neighbor's cat was "murdered" near her front door.

"We could take a passive role and let nature take its course and end up with a tragedy, not only with cats but with a human," Connell said, "or we could take a proactive role."

At the meeting, the council directed the police department to get aggressive with enforcing its trash ordinance, as a way to deter wildlife visitors. Staff members also were directed to step up their efforts in educating the public.

Valerie MacDonald from the Colorado Division of Wildlife said the office has received complaints of dead cats and they suspect a coyote from a nearby drainage area is the predator.

MacDonald said the agency also has fielded reports of mountain lion and bear sightings, both of which have lived in nearby mountains for years.

At this time, the DOW does not intend to take action to remove the animals and wants to educate and inform the public on how to coexist with them, MacDonald said. None of the animals has shown a threat to humans, she noted.

A DOW representative will come before the council Sept. 14 to talk about the issue.

City Deputy Manager Wendy DuBord urged residents and visitors to be mindful that the city is in a rural area adjacent to wildlife habitat.

"We really need to be responsible about trash in particular and not actively feed the wildlife," DuBord said.

The city has received complaints from those near Whistler Road, Meadows Lane, Burgess Creek Road and next to the ski area, DuBord said.

"It just seems to be on the rise," DuBord said and noted it shouldn't be a surprise as growth continues near wildlife interface areas.

Early in July, the police department issued 88 violations in a day for residences in the mountain area that violated the city's trash ordinance, which could encourage wildlife to come into neighborhoods.

The police have revisited the area two other times and seen fewer and fewer violations, City Public Safety Director J.D. Hays said.

DuBord said the city would start fining those who are in violation of the city's ordinance.

Some of the trouble comes when second-home owners put their trash out when they leave on a Sunday, which could be days before collection, DuBord said.

The city's ordinance requires that trash put out on the street before 5 a.m. on collection day be in a wildlife-resistant container.

Empty containers also must be placed back in the resident's house, garage or enclosure by 6 p.m. the same day.

DuBord warned that wildlife-resistant containers are still susceptible to wildlife.

"It is no guarantee it will keep wildlife out. If a bear wants to get in a trash can, this will not stop him," she said. "It will slow them down a little bit and keep smaller animals out."

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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