Steamboat Springs Black bear sightings likely will be picking up in the coming weeks as the animals awaken from their winter slumber.
On the first day of spring March 20, Steamboat Springs resident Becky Slamal spotted three bears in a tree off Fish Creek Falls Road.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins identified the bears as a sow and her two yearling cubs that were born the previous winter. It is yearlings like those that are likely to create headaches for residents and wildlife officials after mom kicks them out as summer approaches. Last summer, bear cubs picked up bad habits from their mothers, who taught them to forage for food in trash cans.
“Once they’re out on their own, they’ll be trouble,” Haskins said.
Haskins said the bear sighting in the Fish Creek Falls Road area is the first one he has heard about this spring but said he typically hears reports of sightings at Steamboat Ski Area at the end of March or beginning of April.
At this point, the bears are not eating a lot, Haskins said, but as the snow melts, they will begin feeding on grass and plant material. Cubs that were born at the beginning of the year still are nursing.
Bears typically do not start being a nuisance and Dumpster diving in town until May or June, he said. Nuisance bear activity last summer was especially prevalent in the Fish Creek Falls Road area near Steamboat Boulevard and Blue Sage Drive.
“We know we’ve got at least a couple sows that have yearlings,” Haskins said. “We suspect we’re going to have problems with them.”
Haskins said that last summer was a typical year in Routt County in terms of the number of issues involving nuisance bears. In Steamboat, wildlife officers trapped three bears last summer that were being a nuisance. One of those bears illegally was shot and killed after being relocated near the Wyoming border. Another bear that was trapped was euthanized because it bit a wildlife officer’s finger.
Toward the end of the summer, there were reports of bears bluff charging humans, including several reported incidents on Emerald Mountain where a bear reportedly was bluff charging mountain bikers and runners.
Bears oftentimes can become more of a nuisance when their natural food sources are threatened, and last summer's drought conditions did not help. Haskins said it is too early to tell how plentiful natural food sources for bears will be this summer.
“We’re hoping we see some recovery despite the drought forecast,” Haskins said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com