Bad news bears: The frequency of bears breaking into homes seems to be on the rise

Back in August, 2021, a couple of black bear cubs enjoyed the food in Lisa and Kevin Smith's kitchen after prying open a window, knocking out a screen and entering their home. The bears got into the pantry and knocked over a trash can before being scared out of the home by police.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The end of spring and early summer is a time when bear activity is high, only outpaced by the end of fall when they are preparing for hibernation.

Christy Bubenheim, administrative assistant at Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Steamboat Springs, said she’s noticed an uptick in bears getting into homes recently, saying residents have been doing well securing their trash, but she suggested those habits may be part of what’s motivating bears to seek food indoors.

The hot summer weather likely plays a part as well. Many homes in Steamboat Springs don’t even have air conditioners, so leaving a door open with just a screen barrier seems like the obvious move, but Bubenheim strongly advises against this habit, even in the daytime when many people think less about bear danger.

At around noon, Wednesday, June 8, a bear got into the patio area at Sunpie’s Bistro and then inside the dining area of Aurum Food and Wine. By the time a CPW officer arrived, the bear was gone. Bubenheim said it’s possible it was the same bear that got through a screen door and into a home in the downtown area later that night.

To catch this bear, CPW set a bear trap box; a metal cage with fish or produce used as bait that closes behind the bear after it steps onto a pressure pad.

Back in May, a bear was caught on video in the lobby of The Lodge at Steamboat. The door was left open to encourage a breeze into the stuffy lobby area, which allowed a bear to walk right in.

No one was harmed and the animal found its way out. A bear entering a home is obviously dangerous and precautions should be taken whenever possible.

Perhaps the most important reason to remain bear aware is out of mindfulness for the bears themselves. Bears that are caught trespassing are sometimes relocated but are usually euthanized.

Bubenheim explains that relocating bears isn’t feasible in most cases, as bears who are relocated even 60 miles away are still known to return to where they were caught, and even if they don’t, bears who have gotten in the habit of eating human food tend to continue seeking it even in new environments.

“There’s not very many places we can bring them in,” Bubenheim said. “I mean, yes, the wilderness, but how would we get them up there, you can’t drive up there. You can’t land a helicopter up there.”

Young bears, between one and two years old, are especially curious right now. According to Bubenheim, right now is the time when young bears first break from the guidance of their mother.

“They haven’t learned any fear of people and they just they seem to be the biggest troublemakers,” Bubenheim said.

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