Community Agriculture Alliance: Humans live in bear country, not the other way around |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Humans live in bear country, not the other way around

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Yampa Valley is a wondrous place to live. We share it with many different animals — birds, bears, deer, raccoons, foxes and elk. I am always enlightened by what I see on the way into work from Hayden every day. It’s a natural world we share with these animals.

An important part of sharing this natural world is learning about and understanding our place in it and the impact we have with everything we do. There have been quite a few articles about bears in Steamboat Pilot & Today this summer, frequently involving bears breaking into cars, condos and dumpsters. It’s been so prevalent that one could even imagine there is a bear or gang of bears around town with lock pick tools looking for easy, unsuspecting targets.

Now, as ridiculous as that sounds, is it any more ridiculous than hearing that a person who lives in bear country has left food in their car and left their car unlocked or a person put their unsecured garbage cans out by the curve the night before pickup?

For some, the answer is simple; move the bears. That simple plan, however, forgets one crucial fact — humans live in bear country. Bears don’t live in human country. Remembering that simple fact and acting on it by locking things up, not leaving out food and using secure dumpsters is a great way to lessen the challenge of bears breaking into dumpsters, cars and even condos.

Furthermore, having a better understanding of bears is also helpful. First, bears are extraordinary, intelligent animals. They have superior navigation skills and excellent memories. Why do you think bears keep coming back to the same place when they have found food there?

Secondly, bears have excellent senses of smell, sight and hearing. They can smell food from more than a mile away. Their eyesight allows them to detect when fruits are ripe. Lastly, bears can see in color.

Bears are just one of the many different animals that have been in the Yampa Valley before we got here. Understanding more about the animals we share this valley with and respecting that meaningful relationship is a critical way to minimize harmful human/animal interactions will allow everyone to enjoy the Yampa Valley more.

The summer is quickly winding down for Yampatika. Most programs end by Labor Day weekend, including our Yampatika naturalist at Fish Creek Falls. This program operates from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday through Monday and includes a short hike at 10 a.m.

The rest of the time there is an interpretive table with skulls, pelts and other information about the plants and animals living in the area. Stop by for a visit. For more information about upcoming Yampatika programs, visit and click on the program calendar at the top of the page.

Joe Haines is the executive director of Yampatika.

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