Hungry bears getting crabby

Animals prep for long winter

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Tim Rinn/courtesy

A black bear grips a crabapple tree behind Rinn Chiropractic Center last week. Bears are beginning to feed more heavily as winter approaches.

— Black bears are putting on their winter weight, and at least one adult bear is stocking up on crabapples in the city.

Claw marks on tree branches and piles of animal droppings near the tree's base indicated a bear had been in the Hurley family's yard at the end of Harms Court. Also, Tim Rinn of Rinn Chiropractic Center on Anglers Drive took pictures last week of a bear eating off a crabapple tree outside the office.

Division of Wildlife biologist Jeff Yost reminded residents and out-of-town guests that bears are in a feeding frenzy.

"During late summer and fall, when they are putting on weight. They can gain more than one kilo, or 2.2 pounds, daily," Yost said. "They could be gaining 2.5 pounds a day prior to going into hibernation."

Black bears, the only kind in this area, are omnivores, which means they feed on vegetation and meat. During this time of year, bears are attracted to a variety of food sources, such as fruit trees, berry bushes, bird feeders, trashcans and campsites.

"They will concentrate in bigger numbers in areas where there is more food," Yost said. "Typically, they don't feed together, but that's when they tolerate each other - where there is a good food source and there is enough."

Bears will remember where they find food and will return to the same spot or look for an identical food source, Yost said. For example, a bear that eats out of a trashcan will return to the same can or find another trashcan.

Now, crabapples seem to be a popular food item within city limits.

Rinn had to scare off a black bear because he was worried the animal was going to kill his crabapple tree. Patients were in the office, so everyone got quite a show at 2 p.m. Friday, Susie Rinn said.

"It is a broad range (where they will feed) and it will vary year to year," Yost said. "Where they are going to go is where the food is going to be. The drainage areas with heavy cover and berry bushes or any sort of orchard or grove with fruit-bearing trees (are popular spots)."

Weekend weather hasn't forced bears into town, but heavy freezes will affect food sources, Yost said. It isn't uncommon for bears to be spotted in Steamboat during this time of year, he added.

Steamboat Springs Police Captain Bob Del Valle said 90 percent of bear sightings are called in at night. Del Valle reminded residents if they do not have bear-proof trash containers, they could be cited.

"Don't leave your garbage out," Yost echoed. "The same old stuff applies until the snow is really flying, I guess. It's not just the stuff in town, either. People camping this fall and hunters should be aware of that. Keep it up in a tree or secure it in a vehicle."

- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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