A black bear, most likely a yearling, runs through the Pamela Lane neighborhood in Steamboat Springs last year. Another yearling this year is suspected of opening car doors and causing trouble near Burgess Creek.

Photo by John F. Russell

A black bear, most likely a yearling, runs through the Pamela Lane neighborhood in Steamboat Springs last year. Another yearling this year is suspected of opening car doors and causing trouble near Burgess Creek.

Bear that knows how to open car doors gives Steamboat Springs residents another reason to lock their vehicles

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Problem bears in Steamboat

Area wildlife officials and Steamboat Springs Police Department officers recently responded to the following incidents involving bears:

May 14, 8:27 a.m. Steamboat Springs Police Department officers were called to a report of a bear that got into a Subaru after opening an unlocked car door in the 1800 block of Hunters Court. The bear defecated in the Subaru and chewed through a container of motor oil. According to police, some bears know how to open car doors.

May 29, 2:33 a.m. Officers were called to a report of a bear that had locked itself inside a Subaru hatchback in the 2900 block of Ridge Road. The owner discovered the bear because the bear kept hitting the car’s horn. Officers opened the car doors and let the bear out. The bear caused extensive damage to the car by chewing on the interior and clawing the vehicle’s ceiling.

June 1, 11:35 a.m. Officers were called to a report of a bear that was chasing ducks in a pond in the 900 block of Mauna Kea Lane. The bear was gone when officers arrived.

— A young black bear that has learned how to open car doors in Steamboat Springs has given residents here another reason to lock their vehicles.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Manager Danielle Domson said Wednesday the bear is believed to be a yearling that also could be responsible for killing some ducks in a pond near Mauna Kea Lane on Saturday morning and digging through a garbage can in an open garage on Blue Sage Circle.

But it is the bear's habit of entering multiple unlocked vehicles that has caught the attention of area wildlife officials and prompted them to remind the public about keeping windows up and doors locked.

Officials hope that by taking those precautions, residents can help keep the bear out of trouble and avoid being trapped.

“Bears are pretty smart, but I haven't heard of them opening car doors,” Domson said. “That's new behavior we haven't seen before, so we thought we would remind people to keep their car doors locked.”

Domson said this is probably the first year the bear is trying to find food for itself and it likely learned some bad food-scrounging behavior from its mother.

She said wildlife officers recently investigated an incident involving the bear when it climbed through an open sliding window into the back of pickup that was parked at a residence on Burgess Creek Road.

Domson said the bear was after the food that was left inside the vehicle.

She said four or five days later, on the night of May 28, it is believed the same bear returned to the property and opened at least three doors on separate vehicles parked in the driveway to search for food.

There was no food left in the vehicles that time, and the property owner didn't report any damage to the vehicles other than a muddy paw print on a door.

Early in the morning of May 29, police were called about a bear that managed to lock itself inside a Subaru hatchback on Ridge Road, just off Burgess Creek. The bear alerted the property owner to the situation by honking the car's horn.

Police opened the car doors and let the bear out.

“This is most likely a bear we might have to trap, but we're trying to get people to be more responsible (about locking cars and storing food) before we set a trap for it,” she said. “This same bear has been getting into different types of trouble.”

In recent weeks, multiple residents have called to report a bear getting into a vehicle. In one case early last month, a bear opened the door of a Subaru parked in Hunters Court, defecated in it and chewed through a container of motor oil.

Despite the new and surprising behavior from the bear or bears, Domson said bear activity in Steamboat is about average for this time of year.

She said wildlife officials trapped and relocated one bear Tuesday that was getting into Dumpsters and acting aggressively toward people near Val D'Isere Circle.

Officials think the same bear last year broke into a home.

“We have at least six to seven bears in town already,” Domson said.

At this time last year, she said two problem bears had been relocated out of the city.

In addition to locking car doors and keeping food properly stored, wildlife officials are reminding residents to properly secure trash containers and to clean barbecue grills after using them.

Ground-level screen doors and windows also should be closed at homes to prevent curious bears from going inside.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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