Steamboat Springs A downtown bear apparently has a fancy for poultry and has gone to destructive lengths to get it.
Peter Kenney rents a home near Soda Creek Elementary School and was awoken early Thursday to the shocking sound coming from an electric fence. From his deck overlooking the chicken coop in his yard he could see a bear breaking three panes of thick glass encompassing one of the coop’s sides.
“I’ve never heard of bears destroying their way in,” Kenney said. “He just ripped it to shreds.”
Kenney tried to scare the bear away by banging pots and pans.
“I saw him leave with a chicken,” Kenney said.
The bear returned and followed Kenney onto the deck, he said, despite the noise he was making.
“It didn’t bother him one bit,” he said.
Kenney retreated inside the house, but the bear he described as large and weighing close to 400 pounds still was interested and started pressing its body against a glass window before leaving. The bear injured another chicken during the incident but has not returned, Kenney said.
“I’m sure he was coming back knowing he had busted into a place knowing there was a pile of chickens he hadn’t gotten,” Kenney said. “This guy is extremely brave. I think it’s going to be a very busy season for bears.”
Cedar Beauregard is convinced the same bear was at his downtown home across the street from Kenney’s just a few days before. He had five chickens that would produce three or four eggs daily until the bear ripped apart the coop in his yard and ate them.
“It’s a great big bear that’s hungry for chickens,” Beauregard said.
Beauregard said he thinks an exceptional winter that has left ground still covered in snow has left bears desperate for food.
The Steamboat Springs Police Department has responded to a few reports of bears getting into trash, Sgt. Rich Brown said.
Jim Haskins, Colorado Division of Wildlife area wildlife manager, said most of the local black bears have awoken from hibernation and are hungry.
He said his office has been getting bear reports and the most significant conflict he has heard of was at Kenney’s house.
“For one thing, you’ve got (chicken) feed that will attract bears,” Haskins said. “The smell of the chickens themselves will attract bears.”
Living things account for only about 10 percent of a bear’s diet, Haskins said, which often includes protein sources such as insects or animal carcasses.
“They won’t pass up anything,” Haskins said, including chickens.
Beauregard said chickens have been commonplace at some Steamboat homes for years, but after requests from residents and the local food movement across the country, the Steamboat Springs City Council in December 2009 passed an ordinance making it legal for homeowners in single-family-home neighborhoods to own as many as five chickens.
Encounters between chickens and bears in Steamboat are not uncommon, Haskins said.
“It’s so easy to take care of those situations with an electric fence,” Haskins said.
Haskins said he thinks the electric fence at Kenney’s house might not have been working when the bear attacked the chicken coop, and Beauregard’s coop didn’t have electric fencing. Haskins is almost certain he will hear about the bear again.
“If that bear is messing around in town already, that’s likely a bear we’ll have conflicts with,” Haskins said.
— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com