Cubs in the cupboard: Bears in local’s kitchen make messy exit
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:15 p.m. to include Colorado Parks & Wildlife’s plan for trapping and relocating the bears.
Longtime Steamboat Springs resident Sue Smith was surprised by unwanted house guests Monday afternoon after returning from the grocery store to her home on Bear Drive.
“I came back from the grocery store and found a baby bear on my kitchen counter,” said Smith, who added that she screamed after seeing the cub. “He was not making any noise. He was just investigating.”
Smith said she saw only the one cub in her home when she arrived but believes that there were two in her house at the time. The bears had opened her pantry, and many of the items stored inside had been scattered across the kitchen floor by her hungry visitors.
Smith said she tried to scare the bears out of her home, but after failing to scare them, she exited her home.
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“I see the mother bear on the back deck, and she was larger than what I saw in the house,” Smith said. “So I’m pretty sure that mother is hanging around because baby is still in the house.”
She called friend Blaine Hvambsal, who co-owns Northern Lights Management and also cares for her home. Hvambsal called dispatch, who sent out the Steamboat Springs Police Department and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Hvambsal and his business partner Rob Knutson arrived shortly after police.
“Typically, bears will get into people’s trash, a couple times they get into somebody’s garage if it’s left open, but not usually into the residence itself,” said Steamboat Springs Police officer Matthew Gadbois, who responded to the scene. “The window was pretty small, which I think is probably why it was just the two cubs that made it into the residence and the mom stayed outside. She probably would not have fit.”
Gadbois estimated that the cubs were between 80 and 100 pounds and said the mother bear was most likely between 350 and 400 pounds.
He said responding to bears inside a home can be tricky.
“We need to know where the mom is and what her demeanor is going to be like when we get there. We know she’s going to be protective, and we don’t want to put ourselves between her and the cubs,” Gadbois said. “We want to do our best to get the cubs out of the residence, but we also want to do that with as little means as possible. So we open the doors, try to just shoo them out.”
He said police don’t want to use nonlethal bean bags inside because it can make the bears to run around the house and cause more damage. On this day, the cubs climbed out the same window they came in and, outside of the mess on the floor and a calling card on the carpet, which, Hvambsal and Knutson stayed to help Smith clean up, caused very little damage.
“I’d say from spring to October we get a lot of bear calls when they get in the trash, whether it be commercial dumpsters or residences, it’s nonstop,” Gadbois said. “I would say it’s very rare for them to get into a house. … She definitely left that window open, which is unfortunate, but not uncommon because of the hot weather, and people just turn on their fans and leave windows open to let the air circulate.”
Gadbois was waiting for Colorado Parks and Wildlife to arrive and said they plan was to trap all three bears and relocate them together to another area, where they would not be tempted to go into another residence, become a nuisance and possibly have to be euthanized.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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