Bear euthanized in Steamboat after breaking into garages, vehicles

A black bear jumps out of a dumpster in 2017 at the Selbe Apartments on Rollingstone Drive. Wildlife officials are urging Routt County residents to secure attractants, especially garbage, as bears prepare for hibernation.
File photo/John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County wildlife officials euthanized a bear last week after the animal showed little fear toward humans in Steamboat Springs, breaking into several homes and vehicles in search of food.

In the course of a single day, July 11, the animal got into two garages, three closed cars and multiple trash cans in neighborhoods near Steamboat Resort, according to Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. 

Steamboat resident Kristen Lillie, who lives in the 2800 block of Eagle Ridge Drive, was one of several people affected by the bear’s onslaught. According to Lillie, she owned a bear-proof dumpster secured with a metal bar, but that did not stop the animal. 

“This bear climbed over the back of the trash enclosure, peeled the plastic up like it was a can and tore into our dumpster,” she said.

Lillie later saw wildlife officers in the process of tranquilizing the bear, which had climbed into a tree in the 1700 block of Medicine Springs Drive. By the time Lillie got there, a group of people, including wildlife officers and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters, was standing at the base of the tree, holding a tarp to catch the animal. 

“They had already put one tranquilizer in the bear and were preparing to put in a second one,” Lillie said. 

After the second dose, she saw the animal fall about 40 feet, the impact of which yanked the tarp out of some people’s hands. 

“Most of them dropped the tarp and ran away because they weren’t sure what state the bear would be in,” she said, adding the animal was well sedated at that point.

In most cases, Colorado Parks and Wildlife operates on a two-strike policy when dealing with bears. If a bear poses a public safety threat, officers typically tranquilize the animal and relocate it to a place outside of town, in the hopes it will not return. 

But because of the extensive damage the bear caused and a lack of fear it showed toward humans, officers determined it could not successfully be relocated, according to Middledorf. 

“The officers determined the best course of action was to euthanize the bear,” he said.

As Middledorf has mentioned before, such a decision weighs hard on the officers. 

 “The last thing we want to do is put a bear down,” he said. 

As civilization encroaches further into natural habitats, people play a major role in protecting such animals or leading to their demise, Middledorf added. 

By following a few simple steps — locking doors to homes and cars, as well as adequately securing garbage according to the city’s ordinance — people can keep themselves and wildlife safe. 

Middledorf recommends people invest in trash containers certified through the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. The agency determines if a container is bear-proof based on its ability to outlast a grizzly bear’s efforts to get inside.   

“If we are attracting these animals to town, we create a situation where these bears and humans are in jeopardy,” Middledorf said. “We don’t want to have that.”

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

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