Bear dies after getting electrocuted in Routt County |

Bear dies after getting electrocuted in Routt County

A bear hangs out in a tree across from the Bud Werner Memorial Library in 2017. Another black bear died Friday morning after it climbed up a utility pole and got electrocuted. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer Jack Taylor said bears are able to climb the poles just like a tree, and do so mostly to flee danger.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A black bear died Friday morning after it got electrocuted near the intersection of Routt County roads 22 and 14 southwest of Steamboat Springs. 

At 7:30 a.m., a nearby resident watched the bear try to cross Routt County Road 22 when an oncoming car scared the animal, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer Jack Taylor. 

The bear ran into an adjacent field and climbed up a wooden utility pole, apparently in an attempt to flee from traffic. When it reached the power lines, the animal received an electrical shock that sent it plummeting to the ground, according to Taylor. He found the bear dead at the base of the utility pole later in the morning.

According to Taylor, the animal was an older female black bear that was not lactating, so it did not have any cubs.

From his experience, Taylor described such incidents as unusual but not uncommon. Last year, he said, local Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers received at least two calls of bears being electrocuted.

“Basically, the bear is trying to get away from something,” Taylor explained. “The bear climbs the power pole just like they climb trees, then it hits the power lines.”

Other times, he has heard of bears climbing the poles seemingly out of curiosity, perhaps because of the electrical buzzing noise certain power lines create. 

In 2017, a black bear survived an electrical shock after it climbed a utility pole near a Starbucks in Durango. The cafe temporarily lost power, but civilian videos showed the bear able to limp away from the scene.

Friday’s incident in Routt County did not cause a power outage, according to Jim Jennings with the Yampa Valley Electric Association.

As for the fate of the bear’s carcass, Taylor said his agency will donate the meat if it is salvageable. If not, wildlife officers will take it to a forest for scavengers to decompose.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.