Bearing bear season
Jim Haskins, area wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said bears are attracted to bird feeders. Homeowners are encouraged to bring in birdfeeders each night, but if they are unable to take in the feeders, it's best to put a piece of plywood or lumber with a tack strip under the feeder to deter bears from walking under it. Homeowners also may want to place a strand of electric fencing around the yard to keep bears out.
Steamboat Springs Police Department Capt. Joel Rae said his officers will issue tickets to homeowners for unsecured trash containers. All trash containers should be either bear-resistant or placed in a bear-resistant enclosure, he said. A first-offense ticket is $100 but may be suspended or reduced upon proof of purchase of a bear-resistant container.
A second ticket is $150, and third and subsequent violations require a municipal court appearance. The court then can issue fines as much as $999.
Steamboat Springs Sandie Ihlenfeldt was the unwitting host to quite a party at her house Tuesday. As she was away from her home on Mark Twain Lane on Tuesday night, a guest broke through a screened window into her home and ate a dessert she had made earlier in the day.
But her guest wasn't just after the brownies. He also ripped into a bag of powdered sugar and ate honey, out of a container shaped like a bear.
The intruder, either satisfied or scared away by Ihlenfeldt returning to her home, ran back out the window, leaving a set of powdered-sugar paw prints in the kitchen.
"A little bear came in and he said, 'Well look, brownies, powdered sugar and honey, she must have known I was coming for dessert,'" Ihlenfeldt said. "He came in with muddy footprints, and he left with powdered-sugar footprints."
The bear didn't do much damage to the house, other than a broken window screen, some claw marks where he pulled himself in and a little damage to the refrigerator he apparently tried to open, Ihlenfeldt said.
"He just had a ball : truthfully, it was a matter of cleaning up the funny powdered-sugar footprints all over the house," she said. "It wasn't horrible; it was just weird that an animal has been scurrying around in my house."
Even with little damage to the house, the Colorado Division of Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said several bears in the area have become a nuisance. One was relocated Thursday to near the Wyoming border.
"I think the situation we've got up on Mark Twain (Lane) is probably a sow who's been here and is used to human food sources," he said. "This is probably not the first litter of cubs she's raised where she's taught them to utilize human food sources."
Haskins said the bear that broke into Ihlenfeldt's house likely was one of the sow's two cubs, perhaps the same cub that was tranquilized and moved Thursday after the cub broke into a trash can near Steamboat Boulevard.
"The real problem is the sow. She'll probably breed again this year," he said.
Haskins said his office would relocate the sow and her other cub if they are given the opportunity, but older bears are more likely to return to the place they were captured and more likely to return to human food sources.
Not all bears are nuisances and
may be tolerated in the community if neighbors are understanding, Haskins said.
One bear, frequently spotted near Creel Lane, along Fish Creek, has behaved itself for the most part, he said.
"That bear has really not been into too much trouble. It's been around, and it's possibly raided a couple bird feeders," he said.
The DOW will relocate bears when necessary, but Haskins said it's very difficult to find a place to move a bear, particularly one that has been in trouble.
Creel Lane resident Glenda Hachenberger said she was worried the cub was becoming too comfortable with people as she watched the bear clamber up a large pine tree in her backyard Thursday.
"This little cub has been hanging around for the last couple of years. He's not afraid," she said. "I do hope they'll move this little guy somewhere. He's going to get hurt or give someone a heart attack."
The Creel Lane bear is one of six or seven bears known in the areas, Haskins said. Because the plants and berries in the wild are not yet ripe, this is the time of year when bears often make their way into town, but Haskins said the number of bear sightings should diminish in the coming weeks.
As long as residents take care to secure their trash and food, living with bears in the neighborhood is not considered dangerous.
"It's really about establishing a comfort zone," he said. "We rarely, rarely have what I would call a dangerous interaction with bears."
Even so, he said bears are a serious issue in town.
"I understand totally why (residents) are concerned, and they should not take it lightly, and we do not take it lightly when they begin to go into houses," he said. "It's something we can't tolerate and accept because even if a bear doesn't bite you but gives you a heart attack, that's something we can't stand."
Haskins recommended not leaving screen doors open at night or when the house is unoccupied, and taking birdfeeders inside at night or placing plywood with tack strips underneath the bird feeder to deter bears.
Steamboat Springs Police Department Capt. Joel Rae said his office also is stepping up enforcement against homeowners who do not secure their trash in a bear-resistant trash container or a regular trash container in a bear-proof enclosure.
Fines start at $100 for a first offense, but that can be suspended or reduced upon proof of purchase of a bear-resistant trash container.
Fines increase for subsequent offenses.
Officers also routinely use beanbag rounds or rubber bullets designed to get the bears out of residential areas.
"It's just a reminder that this is not a friendly place to be, and to get them back into the woods and out of town," he said.
Rae said that on one such call, one officer was charged by a bear, but the bear turned away at the last minute.
If residents do see a bear, Rae said they should call 911 instead of approaching the bear themselves. And Ihlenfeldt said she plans to make sure bears aren't invited to any more parties.
"We always leave the windows open in summer, but that's going to change," she said.