Bears in our urban corridor
It's everyone's responsibility to prevent bears from becoming nuisance animals.
Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009
- Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
- Brent Boyer, editor
- Mike Lawrence, city editor
- Tom Ross, reporter
- Paul Hughes, community representative
- Gail Smith, community representative
Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.
Steamboat Springs Believe it or not, bears haven't always been so commonplace in Steamboat Springs. But the city's rapid growth during the past 15 years and our continued encroachment into bear habitat has resulted in increased encounters with our ursine neighbors.
Sadly, our failure to take responsible steps to minimize bear encounters often results in their demise. It takes just one negligent resident or visitor to lead to the destruction of a black bear, and such negligence has become all too commonplace. We stand to lose a lot if we don't change our behaviors.
The abundant wildlife species that share our valley with us help make Routt County such a wonderful place to live. Is there anything quite as exciting as seeing a bear, moose, elk, fox or coyote while hiking your favorite trail or looking out your kitchen window?
We can keep it that way, but only if each of us takes the necessary steps to live responsibly in our wildlife-rich county. Black bears tend to attract the most attention, perhaps because of our misperceptions about them.
Black bears tend to be passive, nonaggressive animals. Their mission is to find food and fatten up for the long winter. They don't hunt other animals, and they tend to run at the first sight of people or dogs. Black bears can range in color from blond to cinnamon to black - but there are no brown bears, aka grizzlies, in Steamboat Springs. The last grizzly spotted in Colorado was killed in 1979.
Black bears are omnivores, but they rarely, if ever, hunt. More often, their meat consumption is from animal carcasses or human-generated garbage. Bears thrive in areas such as Routt County where natural berries and grasses are abundant. However, their main mission is to find food, and they're not very picky. An unsecured trash can or bin can provide quite the meal, and a bear's remarkable memory and intelligence means it quickly learns where it can go for a reliable entree.
The increase in bear encounters in Steamboat Springs in recent years is directly attributable to our failure to secure food sources, including trash, pet food and birdfeeders. Although there is a city law to prevent this failure, by detailing trash receptacles and when we can take our trash to the curb for pickup, too many of us don't follow the law or take other steps to protect our bear population. Here's what you can and should do:
- Do not leave pet food and birdfeeders outside overnight. If a bear is getting to your birdfeeder during the day, take it down for a few days.
- Move barbecue grills into garages or storage sheds after using them.
- Close ground-floor windows and doors when you're gone or in a different part of the house. If you want to keep your ground-floor windows open during the day or evening, DOW Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins suggests putting down a half-sheet of plywood with tack strip affixed to its top. Bears don't like stepping on the tack strip and usually won't attempt to enter a window or door protected by the homemade deterrent.
- Obey the city 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, and the city should increase its enforcement of such violations.
- Secure larger trash receptacles.
- Don't call the Division of Wildlife or local law enforcement agencies just because a bear is on your property. If a bear is acting aggressive or scratching on window screens or doors, pick up the phone and call the appropriate agency. Otherwise, grab a camera and enjoy your unique encounter.
Common sense will go a long way toward preserving our black bear population and minimizing our encounters with them. Our failure to act responsibly, however, will lead to the destruction of bears and the loss of a wonderful and wild community asset.