Our View: Call of the Wild


Editorial Board, May 11 through Sept. 21, 2011

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Laura Schmidt, community representative
  • Jim Miller, community representative

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

— Bear sightings have been on the rise in Steamboat Springs for the past two decades, coinciding with the city’s growth and our encroachment on traditional bear habitat. Only on rare occasions do the increased bear sightings result in an uncomfortable encounter.

A curious consequence of the growing black bear presence is a jump in the number of 911 calls reporting bear sightings. It’s gotten to the point where emergency dispatchers and law enforcement agencies are asking people not to use 911 to report a bear unless the animal is posing an immediate threat to people.

According to Routt County Communications Director Tim McMenamin, police have received 75 calls about bears through 911 and non-emergency numbers since May 1. His message: Bears belong here and therefore their presence shouldn’t alarm or frighten us. Don’t hesitate to report nuisance bears by calling dispatch at 970-879-1090, but reserve use of 911 for actual emergencies.

That’s commonsense advice for residents and visitors, particularly as bear activity continues to increase in the summer months. But what’s perhaps more important is a reminder about all of our personal responsibility to protect our bear population by taking simple steps to reduce encounters.

Black bears tend to be passive and non-aggressive. Their mission during the summer and fall months is to fatten up for the long Routt County winter. In addition to the wide array of natural food options that thrive in our area — wild berries and grasses chief among them — our bear population has found a reliable source of food in the unsecured trash cans and Dumpsters that line our neighborhoods and commercial districts. Even our cars have become fair game for hungry bears who smell a potential meal.

Our failure to secure those food sources is what creates nuisance bears. And a nuisance bear, sadly, is one quickly on its way to death. The city of Steamboat Springs has an ordinance on the books that requires all residences and businesses that store trash outside to do so in an approved wildlife-proof container. That includes Dumpsters that are in an enclosure.

Residents and businesses that pay for curbside trash pickup cannot put out their trash cans until 6 a.m. on the morning of pickup and must bring them back inside by 8 p.m. the same day, unless they have wildlife-proof containers. The city ought to make sure it’s enforcing the ordinance, especially in areas where bears are more common.

Violators of the ordinance are subject to fines. Worse, violators jeopardize the survival of a magnificent creature that helps make living here special.


zozobee 5 years, 10 months ago

Dumpsters are the biggest issue. Grocery stores, apartment complexes, condominuums, etc must secure the dumpsters. Why are there no regulations or no enforcement if there are regulations?


Doug Matthews 5 years, 10 months ago

Sooooo..... one and a quarter calls per day about dangerous animals in the city is overwhelming the 911 system? It's better to not have on duty police officers know where potential bear/human interaction problems might arise? Get a grip. Also, given the natural size of a bear's territory that it roams on a daily basis, Steamboat Springs has not "encroached on traditional bear habitat" in the past 20 years. Rather there has been a dramatic increase in the bear population, which puts pressure on historic ranges (over the past 100 years) and forced them into the city by bear population pressures. Enough of the "feel good" ecobabble. The fact is that there are more bears, so there are more bears in the city. Police need to be made aware of where they are so they can look out for the safety of the residents they are sworn to protect. One or two calls a day, on the average, is certainly not excessive.


scott selby 5 years, 10 months ago

Zorro....do you have the numbers on the historic vs current bear population in Routt county?


scott selby 5 years, 10 months ago

zorro---I wasn't agreeing or disagreeing with you. lol I just was curious as to if you knew the numbers. Bears will also go where the food is easiest to get. Don't leave food (trash) out and they won't come to eat it. Sort of like the pics of the bear in the dumpster the other day....flip the bar up on the dumpster lid (it was down in the pictures) and the bear can't climb in. But thatnk you for the precise count. lol


Troutguy 5 years, 10 months ago

The picture on the front page of today's paper says it all. A bear is climbing out of a trash dumpster that doesn't have the bar up to keep it out of there in the first place. These 'bear proof' dumpsters only work if the lids are locked down. Are businesses required to use these 'bear proof' dumpsters, or are they just required to have them only to leave the lids always open?


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.