Bears in Routt County active, behaving

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— A mild winter has given way to a healthy local wildlife population, and Routt County’s black bear population appears to be behaving itself, a local wildlife official said.

“The winter was kind to the animals, but a drought summer would be very unkind for the animals,” said Jim Haskins, area wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.

Thanks to an ample food supply last summer, bears were able to go into hibernation healthy and well fed, Haskins said. In that condition, the impregnated sows are more likely to give birth to healthy cubs in January and February.

“We should have pretty good recruitment of cubs,” Haskins said.

With an early spring, he said, the bears have been able to come out of hibernation a little earlier and start foraging for food. So far, Parks and Wildlife officers have not received reports of any nuisance bears, Haskins said.

The Steamboat Springs Police Department has been contacted several times in the past couple of weeks regarding bears. In most cases, someone has called to report a bear getting into a trash can but not being aggressive.

Spring also is the time when local wildlife officers attempt to re-educate the public about bears and steps humans can take to help prevent bears from becoming a nuisance. Officers are reminding residents to use bear-proof trash containers and to not leave the containers outside for extended periods of time. Bears are attracted to bird feeders, and homeowners are asked to bring bird feeders inside each night.

After a warning, officers can issue citations to Steamboat Springs residents who don’t secure their trash. 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 of as much as $999.

Haskins said bears could become a nuisance in Steamboat this summer if something happens to their natural food supply.

“We don’t have real serious problems unless we have a food failure,” Haskins said.

Such a failure could result from a severe drought or a late frost, which could wipe out the sarvisberry and chokeberry crops.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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