A bear cub returns June 9 to the kitchen window where it gained entry to the Arlene and Mike Zopf home in Dakota Ridge. This time the window was locked.

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

A bear cub returns June 9 to the kitchen window where it gained entry to the Arlene and Mike Zopf home in Dakota Ridge. This time the window was locked.

Bear sneaks into Steamboat home

Dakota Ridge incident indicative of increased spring encounters



The bear that entered the Zopfs' home Tuesday opened only cabinets and drawers that contained food, Arlene Zopf said. She said she and her husband don't want any harm to come to the bear.

— Mike and Arlene Zopf are accustomed to seeing bears around their Steamboat Springs home, but Tuesday afternoon marked the first time a bear entered their home and helped himself to the porridge — or in this case, oatmeal and apples.

The issue became more serious when the same yearling cub returned and operated the lever on the Zopfs’ door to let himself in. The bear even returned a third time after Colorado Division of Wildlife officials left the Zopfs with some specific advice.

“Until I saw it, I wouldn’t have believed how many times the bear would try and get into the house,” Arlene Zopf said Wednesday. “He circled the house over and over, banged on every window and tried every door handle.”

The small bear was first discovered when Mike Zopf returned to their home in the Dakota Ridge subdivision at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and entered his house through the garage to find a piece of apple on the floor. When he entered the kitchen, he saw the bear on a kitchen counter, in the process of squeezing through a 6-inch opening in a roll-out window he’d apparently used to enter the home.

The bear had opened a bread drawer, the cupboard under the sink and a trash compactor to get at food.

Mike Zopf was away when the bear entered the garage Wednesday morning. Zopf later expressed chagrin that he didn’t think to lock the door.

“We care about wildlife and don’t want to do anything to hurt the bear,” he said.

Local DOW officials advised the Zopfs to buy carpet tacking and affix it to deck railings and even small window ledges the bear had used to gain access to the house. And they told the Zopfs that even if the DOW trapped the bear and moved it many miles away, it would surely return.

District Wildlife Manager Libbie Miller said she and her colleagues dropped off a baited pepper barrel on the Zopfs’ property to help convince the animal to stay away.

When the bear enters the barrel, it trips a trigger that gives it a blast of pepper spray in the face.

“It’s a deterrent mechanism that’s really unpleasant for the bear,” Miller said.

DOW officials are dealing with an increase in bear issues this spring — even considering how frequent those problems have become in recent years. Miller said a number of the issues for homeowners have involved exterior doors with levers instead of knobs.

She theorized that bears that stand on their hind feet and lean on the windows of doors sometimes brush the door handles with their paws when they drop to all fours. As a result, they inadvertently open the door.

The bears are smart enough to associate cause and effect.

“They figure that out really quickly,” Miller said.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


beentheredonethat 6 years, 11 months ago

why subject the bear to cruelty, by pepper spraying it, when it could easily be captured and moved to a different side of the valley.


trump_suit 6 years, 11 months ago

Read closer.... If they move the bear it will just come back. By making that home an unpleasant experience for the bear it will learn to stay away without harming the animal. With any luck it will associate human with the pepper spray experience and stay away from human habitation in the future.


bandmama 6 years, 11 months ago

Yup. much better to move the animal out of it's natural surroundings to please humans, instaed of making them weary of of danger, from humans. Yeahhhh, riiiiiight. It is NOT cruel to make them hesitate to approach us, it may save them, to train them not to come into our homes...oh darn, Forgot there for a minute WE invaded their kitchens many many years ago. they were here first. weren't they? (Gary Larson cartoons......miss them.)


max huppert 6 years, 11 months ago

you should move it to Oak Creek, I miss seeing bears.


jk 6 years, 11 months ago

So I just want to be clear on this. If my dog goes onto county land, that livestock is grazing on and disrupts them, a rancher has the right to shoot my pet?

If someone breaks into my house and I fear for my life I have the right to shoot them?

But if some stupid bear is in my kitchen digging through my cabinets I can't shoot it, plus I'll be prosecuted, and publicly chastized if I do??

Ahhh what has the world come to??


exduffer 6 years, 11 months ago

Prepare yourselves for this. My neighbor and I have used a potato(e) gun on this bear twice. The second time was a full force shot in the rump, he went running for his life, he was back 2 hours later. This bear will not be relocated, he will be disposed of by other means. We have not called the DOW to bother them because from our experience we know what the inevitable outcome will be. Can't wait to hear the comments when he leaves us through no fault of his own.


Duke_bets 6 years, 11 months ago

jk - If the bear is in your house, you can give him eternal rest with no repercussions. The laws are the same for bears and dogs.


oldskoolstmbt 6 years, 11 months ago

jk~ don't you know, you can even open fire on a partially visible bear behind a trash bin in your driveway/alley in a residential neighborhood when it is interfering with your agenda...


jk 6 years, 11 months ago

oldskool. I thought that was only if you were late for a trip,and qualified to ricochet bullets into the brain cavity of a bear in the dark, while firing in the direction of your neighbors house??


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