Our View: Nuisance bears a solvable problem


Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Steamboat Springs and the surrounding areas have seen a marked increase in bear encounters during the past couple of years, with the sad result often being the removal or destruction of the animals.

The trend likely will continue this spring and summer as development further encroaches on black bear habitat, and as the bears continue to become accustomed to our presence and the food sources we provide them.

But let there be no misunderstanding: people, not bears, are the problem. Fortunately, there are some relatively simple steps each of us can take to reduce bear interactions and their reliance on us for food.

Much of Steamboat Springs and Routt County is bear habitat. Their native food sources surround our homes and neighborhoods. As bears forage for vast quantities of food in preparation for their long winter hibernation, they find themselves in the midst of a semi-urban environment rife with feeding opportunities - from unsecured trash cans and Dumpsters to birdfeeders, dog food and barbecue grills. There also was a sharp increase last year in the number of bears found entering homes and garages in search of food.

Once a bear finds a new source of food, it will continue to return for more. It's at this point that bears become "nuisance" animals that need to be relocated, or in extreme circumstances, killed.

"The bottom line is a bear is an eating machine," said Jim Haskins, an area wildlife manager for the Division of Wildlife. "If it doesn't find it in your backyard, it's not going to continue to visit your backyard."

Bears become nuisance animals only when humans foster conditions that allow them to be. Accordingly, residents and businesses should take the following steps to reduce bear interactions and protect such a wonderful natural asset:

- Do not leave pet food and birdfeeders outside overnight.

- Move barbecue grills into garages or storage sheds after using them.

- Close downstairs and garage windows.

- Obey the city of Steamboat Springs' ordinance that forbids trash cans from being left out from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless the cans are bear- and wildlife-proof. Violators are subject to fines.

- Secure Dumpsters and larger trash receptacles.

Downtown Steamboat is full of unsecured Dumpsters behind businesses. But even the efforts of several businesses to secure their receptacles can't make up for the businesses that don't make a similar effort.

The city has taken the right approach by replacing ineffective bear-proof canisters in local parks with more robust trash cans. If residents and businesses follow suit, we could see a decrease in "nuisance" bears and a better future for our local black bear population.


sickofitall 8 years, 9 months ago

I would like to see ALL dumpsters bear proof downtown. There is evidence everyday that the bears are going to restraunt dumpsters.


Brant McLaughlin 8 years, 9 months ago

I've said it in several posts before. Having an ordinance in Steamboat does nothing to help the problem if we don't enforce the same rules across all areas of the County. Bears don't care where we draw the line for the city limits.

There is a bear now that is quickly becoming a nuisance in Steamboat II. I've lived there six years and never saw any sign of a bear until last fall. There are alway numerous trash cans sitting outside unlocked or even on the street days before trash pickup is scheduled. If people aren't going to voluntarily comply then we need to have some way to motivate them. An ordinance similar to the city rules needs to be County wide.


justathought 8 years, 9 months ago

I say that the police should check to see if any one of these five steps have been broken whenever someone calls the cops on a bear, if so, relocate the person enticing the bear, if the person then moves back, shoot em. Idiot people are much more abundant and a much bigger nuisance than bears.

By the way, if a bear breaks into a secured home, treat him like any other home invader, give him probation.


dave reynolds 8 years, 9 months ago

thats funny..but have heard communities like Breck.Copper.winter Park.have actually had trash companies.install several trash compactors(mostly 8 yarders)..it seem to have solved some of the problem..one main trash piont but the best answer to this..after all WE invaded their turf...as far as restuarants goes fine then hell out of them if they cannt play by the rules then makem pay..having been in the trash business i can not tell you how blant some reastaurants employees are...wont name names but its pretty sad


meethinks 8 years, 9 months ago

I live in SBII also, about the same amount of time. Our trash has had some selective brousing as well. We got a tether and tied the can shut. I have seen paw prints but so far he/she hasn't gotten into it again. About a week ago, the dog went nuts and I happend to look out, the critter was on the porch, but went away as soon as I opened the door and yelled. Neighbors within the area have all made an effort to keep the trash contained and out of sight. Ok, my point in this? A while back someone had made a comment about the abundance of fireworks in SBII. Maybe, just maybe we should light a few more randomly? May help to deter the bears. seriously. They were around first, we intruded. But I really really dont want to go out on the deck at midnight to be greeted by a hungry bear.
Oh, they seem to avoid the well lit areas of the yard as well.


sickofitall 8 years, 9 months ago

colobob, you got it! If they patrolled garbage containers like the 2 hour traffic chalk, we'd be sitting pretty well!


knee_dropper 8 years, 9 months ago

We used to have the same problems, until we brought the trash inside to where the bears can't get to it. It isn't just restaurant dumpsters, it's all dumpsters in town that aren't bear proof from what I've seen (condos, construction and restaurant), although I bet the restaurant pickins are a lot better. If the city wants to really keep the bears from becoming big problems they should crack down on all trash containers that are open to wildlife. This would probably help control the flying rodent (Magpie) problem too.


colowoodsman 8 years, 9 months ago

Why not let RD write a column about 'bearing' the responsibilty for bears in town and 'bearing down' on those that don't 'bear' their fair share. Once the bears read it they will either die laughing or just head back to the woods shaking their heads.


Brant McLaughlin 8 years, 9 months ago

I keep mine locked up in the garage now. We used to leave it under the pine trees beside the garage. Ours was never browsed. The first time I heard reports of the critter last fall I decided keeping it locked away inside was the best bet.

I rented a duplex in Brooklyn the first three months I lived in Steamboat while we were waiting to close on our house. The landlord did not have bear proof containers for us to use and there was no garage our outbuilding to lock up the garbage. A bruin decided to raid our trash three nights in a row. Finally I decided to use a trick my dad used in Ohio with the dogs and his compost. Melindas eXXXXtra hot sauce. I think it's a quadruple X. Just get the most x's you can find on a bottle of melinda's. It's a habenero suace that takes a few seconds before the burn really sets in. I marinated a couple of hot dog buns using half a bottle of the stuff. I laid the four pieces in a semicircle around the trash can. Next morning two pieces were gone and two were still there. The trash was not disturbed and we had a bear free summer for the remaining 6 weeks we lived there.


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