Residents, be bear aware

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Bears seem to be everywhere -- in laundry rooms and mudrooms, eating rabbits and lounging in one resident's yard.

Colorado Division of Wild--life District Wildlife Manager Valerie Masiello said that in recent weeks, the DOW has been very active with bear calls. In the past 10 days, Masiello said the DOW has received calls about bears in a house's laundry room, trying to get into a mudroom, climbing on decks and porches, opening a cage to get a pet rabbit, getting into trash and eating bird feeders.

Part of the reason for the increase, Masiello said, is that bears are learning to gather food from human sources and are being rewarded by people who leave food outside and easily accessible.

"They will be more persistent to get what they want," Masiello said.

Masiello has been receiving four or five calls a week about bears. There have been no dangerous bear and human encounters, but thousands of dollars of property damage has been done, she said.

Bears have damaged vehicles, fences, hot tub covers, screen doors and windows, she said.

Frequent bear problems have been reported on Burgess Creek Road, near Butcher Knife Canyon and Soda Creek Highlands and in the Whitewood subdivision. Reported bears usually are by themselves, with one other bear or are mothers with their cubs.

To keep bears from homes, residents should not leave attractants outside, especially bird feeders and trash containers that can be opened by bears.

"Most of the time, we'll find specific attractants for the bears. Just because you do everything right, put trash in a bear-proof container or remove bird feeders or attractants from the yard, if your neighbor doesn't, there is a problem," she said. "You need to remove attractants from the yard or you will create problems."

Masiello said that although there is plenty of food available for the bears in the woods, it is easier to get food from human sources.

"They are more likely to look first in the garbage can than eat berries off a sarvis berry bush," Masiello said.

Masiello said the DOW has a regulation that requires homeowners to remedy attractants in their yard if bears are a problem.

Residents also should remember to lock doors and close first-floor windows. Masiello noted that bears easily can pry open windows that are partially shut.

The bear problems persist in spite of a new city ordinance that requires residents to use a wildlife-proof container if they put their trash out before 6 a.m. or leave it out after 8 p.m.

The first ticket for violating the ordinance is $100, but offenders can have the fine waived if they show proof of purchase of a wildlife-proof trash container or make their trash container wildlife-proof.

The ordinance went into effect May 1, and the city has issued 79 citations. Of those tickets, 58 people purchased a wildlife-proof container or retrofitted their trash containers to be compliant with the ordinance, Municipal Court clerk Mary Hayes said.

Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said the department continues to have police officers and the code enforcement officer patrol for violations.

Masiello said that not all the retrofitted trash containers are bear-proof. She suggests that people use a ratchet strap, such as those used on boats, for reinforcement.

Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said that, in general, most people have followed the ordinance, and she thanked those who have complied.

"I know there have been hundreds of them who have gone out and gotten wildlife-proof trash containers and are keeping trash in-doors and are doing the right thing," DuBord said.

The city still gets about one complaint a week about bears in neighborhoods, in yards or on decks, DuBord said.

She also said that there is no area in town immune from bears.

"We will continue issuing tickets to people who aren't complying," DuBord said.

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