Our View: Steamboat bear regulations falling short

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The large number of photographs of urban bears being shared by the readers of Steamboat Today this summer confirms that the potential for human/bear encounters here is on the rise. But if you want to get a sense of how prevalent garbage bears have become in Steamboat Springs, you need to walk the length of Old Town via its alleyways.

At issue

The growing problem with trash bears.

Our view

City Council needs to consult with other mountain towns on bear problem.

Steamboat Today editorial board — May to September 2014

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Tyler Goodman, community representative
  • John Merrill, 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.

Invariably, on any morning of the week, you’ll see shredded trash in the alleys with an occasional large bear dropping. It should be clear to everyone that community efforts to manage our bear problem are insufficient.

We think it’s time that Steamboat Springs City Council take a fresh look at some of the measures being incorporated in other mountain towns and revisit the city’s bear ordinance that was passed in 2005 (the city acted to place bear-proof trash containers in its parks in 2008).

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins agreed this week: “The whole ordinance needs to be looked at and changed. We don’t think it’s adequate.”

Plainly frustrated, Haskins mused aloud this week about the possibility of neutering the known resident black bear sows in the city limits in order to reduce the numbers of yearling males that represent a majority of Steamboat’s problems. He also cites a perceived lack of enforcement of existing bear city ordinances.

Parks and Wildlife officers have euthanized two incorrigible bears that were trapped after breaking into homes this year, Haskins said. However, efforts to trap other bears for relocation were unsuccessful. He is dubious about the effectiveness of relocating bears, which tend to find their way back to town, anyway.

Haskins said his staff has made informal evening surveys of the downtown commercial district and observed numerous commercial dumpsters containing food waste that were not secured.

We don’t mean to single out Old Town — humans are allowing bears to feast in trash containers all across town. While some Steamboat residents are spending less than $50 to have their Waste Management rollaways upgraded with a latching hasp, others are seemingly indifferent to the issue.

“We do animal resistant hasps on our 96-gallon tote and it’s a good deterrent,” Steve Johnson, manager of Waste Management’s Steamboat facility said this week. “But they’re not like the $200 bear savers that somebody could buy.”

We know that other mountain towns like Aspen and several municipalities in the Vail Valley have embraced more robust ordinances pertaining to bears in recent years.

In Aspen, where a law enforcement officer was injured by a bear in July, city ordinances provide that “any trash hauler who provides a refuse container to a city customer shall only provide wildlife-resistant refuse containers.”

Steamboat allows residents to place non-“bear-proof” containers outside between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on pickup days. Since 2010, Aspen has required wildlife resistant containers at the curb on pickup days.

Steamboat fines violators up to $100. Aspen’s fines are $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second and $999 for a third offense,which comes with a mandatory court appearance.

We would hope that Steamboat would not have to resort to such stiff penalties in order to become more responsible about protecting wildlife, while cleaning up a messy problem. But residents and city officials have yet to show the will required to deal with this growing problem responsibly.

City Council and administrators would do well to consult with their counterparts in other cities and strengthen their partnership with Parks and Wildlife in order to take on this issue before it becomes more problematic.

Comments

scott bideau 3 weeks, 3 days ago

One quick remedy would be for the trash companies to start pickup at a more reasonable time. Waste Management arrives before 7am at my house. I wake up early to put the bin out just prior to that, but other residents set out the night before - an obvious invitation to bears. If pickup didn't start until like 8:30am (or even 8am), that would eliminate this one problematic use case. Maybe the city can enforce this? But this wouldn't generate any additional sales tax, so....

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dave mcirvin 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Thank you, Tom Ross. The onus remains on our city council members to become motivated into action before next bear season and the inevitable Aspen-like bear-human action.

Easy solution is what Aspen did (years ago) with mandatory "day of pick up" bear proof cans backed up with heavy fines. Our bear proof bin (purchased by us) has withstood 3 successful bear attacks just this year. (The hardware to modify existing non-bear proof bins must be less than 5 bucks). Durango is midway through a 3 year study in which they provided bear proof trash cans to 900 families. Numerous other Colorado and Wyoming resort towns have proactively addressed this issue way before SS.

Not sure either company can easily change their pick up times...Aces High picks up our trash and recyclables 4-5 hrs after waste management picks up our neighbor's trash on the same day....makes for a potential bear (fox, coyote, crow...) buffet.

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dave mcirvin 3 weeks, 3 days ago

has thwarted instead of withstood 3 successful bear attacks

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Scott Wedel 3 weeks, 3 days ago

I observe that cities with bear problems seem to have adjacent luxury homes on larger lots. I'd guess that bears get accustomed to human activity via the outlying subdivisions and then learn to live in the city. So I think any solution is going to require consistent rules across the greater SB area and not just city limits.

I also think we should take active steps to discourage bears from living in the city. As long as we allow mama bears to live here and teach their cubs how to live in the city then we are going to have a bear problem even if they are mostly living on natural food from gardens and open space areas. I do not see any reason why we couldn't track them and systematically remove local bear dens. And maybe there is a humane way to chase them out of town so the bears learn that it is easier to live elsewhere.

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Cresean Sterne 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Minturn has all bear proof cans through town. It has definately made a huge difference.. IMO, any one breaking the rules regarding when to put trash out should be immediately fined without warning. A fed bear is a dead bear and a point needs to be sent to those who just dont seem to get it. Fines should also be handed out to any management company or business that does not raise and lock the bars on the dumpsters every night and there are many of them that dont....PERIOD..NO EXCUSES..

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dave mcirvin 3 weeks, 2 days ago

C.S., I totally agree. The commercial side of things may be more difficult but your measures are a good start.

S.W., track the bears...their dens are in the hills surrounding town (likely-mostly outside the city limits on private and public property). Once the snow flies are you going to put them up in your abode for the duration of winter once you track, locate their den and evict a boar, pregnant sow and/or one with young cubs.

In endemic bear locales, it isn't rocket science as many other more proactive communities have proven. Careless treatment of garbage, garbage bins, dumpsters, open windows of food filled homes and automobiles is the only substrate required.

One of the unexpected gems of SS is the regular viewing of the wildlife and migrating birds.

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rhys jones 3 weeks, 2 days ago

You really want to shoot a bear, don't you, Mark? Ya get a Merit Badge for that?

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doug monger 3 weeks, 1 day ago

This is funny yet very much not so funny. Let's go back to the early 1980's when in our infinite wisdom the voters decided not to allow spring bear hunts and not to allow for baiting. While neither practice might be considered as the most sportsman oriented, we NEVER saw a bear anywhere and the hunters had a hard time filling hunting licensees. So now since the voters took over the job of game managers we only have ourselves to blame. I have to also laugh at the comments of "lets push them out to the forests". As a rancher that loses (donates) a $1500.00 calf a year to these Constitutionally protected beasts please let's keep them in town or start reducing the herd. If they could live in the forest they would be there. It's simple the numbers are the problem. The last morale to be gained is "KEEP THE VOTERS OUT OF PROFESSIONAL MANAGEMENT" any kind of professional management. Let's leave that to those who went to school to be professional.

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mark hartless 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Corn is plummeting. The price is getting so bad farmers are stockpiling it rather than selling into a lousy market.

And here's the kicker... Those who DO want to sell can't get their corn on rail-cars because the rails are tied up HAULING OIL!! Oil that COULD HAVE BEEN in a pipeline, except for the gubbamint officials that keep blocking the private sector's attempts to build it.

So, keeping government out of private business is just as important as keeping people (regular people) out of wildlife management.

Hillariously, I watched this report from Iowa where the reporter stood in front of a corn harvester/ combine. Any idiot could see that it was made to take in some sort of standing crop, not designed to engage the ground in any way. But the person on the other end said "That's a PLOW, right!!??"... Then I'm thinking God, please let these idiots in Washington DC and New York City STOP managing our country. They don't even recognize a simple piece of farm equipment and yet they presume to know how much of EVERYTHING we need.

Central planning helped sink the Soviet Union and we're determined to try it here anyway.

If there as so many bears that you see them on main street then there are plenty for rugs. When they get tired of being rugs they will go away.

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jerry carlton 3 weeks ago

Maybe if we fed the bears MMJ Brownies the would be easier to manage?

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rhys jones 3 weeks ago

They like it better if you blow the smoke in their ear or nose. Then you'll have a Buddy Bear. You can scratch 'em behind the ears, on the tummy...

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jerry carlton 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Rhys  Kind of like the politicians do to the taxpayers?
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rhys jones 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Wow that looks likes teletype -- causing a momentary flashback -- how'd you do that, Jerry?

Is that font coming back?

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jerry carlton 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Rhys I wondered that myself? I hit a wrong key or something but the post did not disappear and came up looking like that. I could write a War and Peace sized novel about what I do not understand about computers.

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rhys jones 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Jerry -- The more I learn -- the more I realize how stupid I am.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Rhys, You could probably make big bucks teaching us old technology challenged guys about computers, but me thinks your patience would be sorely challenged and it would definitely cut into your fly fishing education.

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john bailey 2 weeks, 3 days ago

hola , ditto that Dan , if only I had my rod in the ROO , oh my........

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Fred Duckels 1 week, 5 days ago

Doug, Are you referring to the educated folks that have inundated the rivers with pike. God help us. How do you reconcile this mess? I'm sure that some of the voters might have questioned authority although we did miss the Iron Horse and other fiascos.

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Fred Duckels 1 week, 5 days ago

The bears can all be killed but the Pike are forever.

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