A bear gets tranquilized, relocated for 1st time this year after scavenging for trash in downtown Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

A bear gets tranquilized, relocated for 1st time this year after scavenging for trash in downtown Steamboat Springs

A 2-year-old black bear got into several trash cans Monday in downtown Steamboat Springs neighborhoods before officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife tranquilized him for relocation. The incident is a reminder to secure dumpsters and vehicles as wildlife become more active.
Courtesy Kevin Dietrich

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Bears have awoken from their winter slumber, and some are already in town trying to satisfy big appetites.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife relocated its first bear of the year Monday in Steamboat Springs after it got into several trash cans around town and posed a threat to children at a day care center.

The incident serves as a reminder to be vigilant about local wildlife and to secure trash cans and vehicles from hungry animals. 

The Steamboat Springs Police Department received several calls Monday about a 2-year-old, cinnamon-colored black bear perusing downtown neighborhoods for scraps.

At about 8 a.m., a resident noticed the male bear rummaging around a dumpster at Laurel and Spruce streets. Officers managed to corral the bear into a tree in the hopes he eventually would leave the area on his own. 

Later in the day, at about 11 a.m., officers received another call about the same bear, which was dragging around a bag of trash at Seventh and Aspen streets. 

The situation became more serious in the afternoon, when students were getting out of nearby schools. By 2:30 p.m., the bear was mere hundreds of feet from a day care center. A caller notified officers that people were going to help divert children away from the bear on their walk home. 

Parks and Wildlife officials also had been tracking the bear, according to Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf. Because the animal had shown a pattern of getting into trash cans and had neared a day care, they immobilized him with a dart gun. After tagging him, officials relocated the bear to a rural area northwest of Meeker. 

Middledorf explained relocation is never an ideal situation for wildlife. Natural food sources are scarce this time of year, and taking the bear to a new habitat makes his search for food even harder.

The tag officials placed on the bear, which denotes him as a public nuisance, will be his death sentence if he wanders into another town.  

“The second time CPW handles that bear, it will be put down,” Middledorf said.

Such instances epitomize the responsibility the public must take in keeping wildlife away from urban areas. 

At a glance

City trash rules:
• Trash stored outdoors must be in a wildlife-resistant container certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.
• Other trash cans can be put out only after 6 a.m. the day it is to be picked up and must 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 wildlife-resistant container.
• Violators face fines ranging from $250 to $750.
• 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.

City bird feeder rules:
• 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.

The city has rules about securing trash. First-time violators receive a warning, but those with improper trash cans face fines ranging from $250 to $750.

In preparation of bear season, the Police Department conducted code enforcement checks at businesses around town at the end of March. 

Cmdr. Annette Dopplick said businesses had the necessary bear-proof dumpsters during those checks, but many were not properly locked. Officers alerted business owners and employees of any violations while warning all of them about future spikes in wildlife presence leading into summer.

As Dopplick explained, winter tends to lull people into a false sense of security from hibernating critters, which makes them more likely to leave trash in the open.

“We all have to switch our thinking to remember that animals are out and about,” she said. 

Middledorf echoed her call to action, adding that he sees the same problem around trash maintenance every year. 

“It’s the No. 1 thing that’s causing these bears to be relocated or destroyed in Steamboat Springs,” he said. “It’s as simple as securing the container.”

As the town grows and encroaches further into wildlife habitats, people will need to take a bigger role in keeping those animals and fellow residents out of harm’s way.

“We live in bear country,” Middledorf said. “We need to find a way to coexist with these animals.”

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