Bear cubs orphaned after sows hit by vehicles
Colorado Parks & Wildlife local officers say a small, fuzzy bear cub wandering the Fish Creek corridor near Anglers Drive is likely orphaned after its mother was hit and killed by a vehicle earlier this year.
CPW officials said Friday that they are optimistic they can trap the cub soon to transport it to a wildlife rehabilitation center in Garfield County for the winter. Kyle Bond, CPW district wildlife manager, said bear cubs stay one to two years with their moms, and this specific cub is too small to survive the winter on its own.
“When they are as young as that one is, it likely would not survive the winter without it’s mom,” Bond said.
Assuming the orphan cub is caught, the small bear would be the fifth orphaned cub in this CPW area sent to a rehab facility this year. Those orphaned cubs include two cubs of a sow euthanized in May in the Whitewood neighborhood and three believed to be orphaned after two sows were killed by vehicle strikes, said Josh Dilley, assistant area wildlife manager.
Dilley said a sow was killed by a vehicle about five weeks ago in the Strawberry Park area, and that sow was believed to have two cubs, one of which was captured and taken to a rehabilitation center. Another sow was killed on U.S. Highway 40 Steamboat about three weeks ago, and one cub was taken to a facility. A male bear was killed by a vehicle in the same area in south Steamboat, where drivers have also seen moose and other animals crossing the highway.
The current orphan cub along Fish Creek was likely born in January or February, Bond said, noting that bear cubs do not grow as rapidly in their first year as some other wildlife. Officers feel certain the cub is orphaned, as the small bear has been seen by various workers and been recorded on home doorbell cameras for more than two weeks without any sightings of a mother bear.
Bond encouraged all residents and business staff to continue to secure trash and wildlife attractants, as the more bears have access to human food, the longer that can delay hibernation, which is starting now. Weather conditions, daytime length and availability of food all affect denning times in the fall.
“With folks leaving attractants out, bears continue to exploit that food source as available and can delay hibernation,” Bond said. “Delaying hibernation is not a natural body rhythm for bears. We want to keep our bears as wild and natural as possible without human influence.”
Many bears have already begun denning but not all, said Travis Duncan, CPW public information officer.
“Given the fairly warm conditions, we still have some bears on the landscape,” Duncan said. “Weather and available natural and human food sources will likely play a role, along with learning from mom, on when a bear chooses to hibernate.”
Three of the four large bears killed by vehicles locally this year happened on Highway 40 at the edges of Steamboat. One 250-pound male was killed by a vehicle midday July 12 near the Steamboat Springs KOA.
CPW officials note that motorists can reduce the likelihood of wildlife collisions by slowing down to increase reaction times, staying alert while driving at dusk and dawn, scanning ahead and watching for movement along roadsides, and watching for shining eyes in headlights when driving at night.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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