Some bears awake, already getting into trash | SteamboatToday.com

Some bears awake, already getting into trash

Hibernation is over, city focuses on keeping bears out of trouble

A bear hangs out in a tree in 2012 across from Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs.

— The first day of spring Sunday signaled the imminent arrival of the bear season in Steamboat Springs.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said the bears are starting to wake up from winter hibernation. Already, at least one bear has been spotted in the Tree Haus neighborhood just outside city limits.

“We have some bears out causing some trouble,” Haskins said.

He said the bears have been getting into bird feeders and trash cans.

That means residents should again get in the habit of securing trash and possibly putting bird feeders away until next winter.

“People need to be aware,” Haskins said. “There are some bears out and about right now.”

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Wildlife officials have met with city officials about the upcoming bear season in an effort to be proactive.

Wildlife officers last year relocated seven problem bears and euthanized six in the wildlife area that includes Steamboat.

“We ended up killing more bears last year than I think we ever have,” Haskins said. “We don’t want to be killing bears or relocating bears because people are being stupid.”

The problem bears were typically repeat offenders and broke into people’s homes in attempts to get food.

One bear last year took a fatal ride to the landfill in Milner after it accidentally got dropped into a trash truck. Wildlife officials think it might have fallen from the truck, and people skinned it along U.S. Highway 40.

The Steamboat community has made some strides in keeping bears out of trash and trouble.

Some neighborhoods and businesses have built enclosures for their trash. The city swapped out its outside trash cans for ones that are bear-proof.

More tickets and warnings were also issued to people who were not following the city’s trash ordinance.

The city's rules state that trash can only be put out after 6 a.m. the day it is to be picked up. Trash cans then need to be brought back inside by 8 p.m.

If a bear gets into a residential trash can more than once, the city can require the resident to purchase a bear-proof trash can.

Those who are issued a citation pay $250 for the first violation. A second offense is $500 and a third offense is $750. A fine can be waived if the offender agrees to purchase a bear-proof trash can.

The city's rules also address bird feeders.

Between April 15 and Nov. 15, bird feeders must be suspended from a cable or other device so they are inaccessible to terrestrial wildlife. Areas below the feeder must be kept free of the accumulation of seed, seed debris or other attractive or edible materials.

Businesses that do not keep their dumpsters secure face the same fines as residents.

Commercial dumpsters must be bear-proof, with lids and locking bars.

If bears still manage to get into a dumpster, the business owner in question may be required to get a different dumpster.

Haskins said there are a few key things that could be done in the city this year to help protect the bear population.

Some mobile home parks are notorious for bears getting into trash.

“If we can figure that out, that would be a big help,” Haskins said.

Haskins said Parks and Wildlife is in the early stages of developing a program that would help those with low incomes purchase bear-proof trash cans.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland