Franz: Mapping where Steamboat’s wild bears roam |

Franz: Mapping where Steamboat’s wild bears roam

A map shows the concentration of all of the bear calls officers had to respond to from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2015. Red hot spots indicate areas of frequent, repeated calls.
Scott Franz

— With the Steamboat Springs City Council finally out on a vacation this week, I had some time to tackle a reporting project I’ve put off far too long.

The bear map.

Have you ever wondered where the town’s bears like to hang out the most? Or how about their favorite dumpsters to dive in?

With some help from the Steamboat Springs Police Department’s records division and an online mapping program, I set out to create a heat map that shows the intensity of the bear calls officers have responded to in the past three bear seasons.

These aren’t the calls about bears that are simply minding their own business and not bothering anyone. These include the dumpster divers, the crowd generators and the bears that are getting into homes and vehicles.

The red spots on the map above show the highest concentrations of bear calls requiring an officer response.

The cooler colors show areas with less-frequent calls.

Typing the latitude and longitude coordinates of all 331 calls into a Google spreadsheet, I learned a few things.

First, the animals like to hang out near almost all of the same downtown restaurants and bars that I do.

Then, there are the hotspots.

The 15 bear calls on the map at Dream Island Plaza make that complex appear as a dark red spot and an area of more-frequent police response.

Central Park Plaza, the entire downtown corridor and the condominium complexes next to Walton Creek also stand out as hotspots.

The bears have been tattled on at the library, the grocery store and fast food restaurants.

However, there are other areas of town they likely frequent, but aren’t getting into trouble and being reported to the police.

Play around with the maps and zoom in to see the locations of specific calls. It will be updated at the end of each bear season.

Send me a note to tell me what you learned or offer an idea for how to use mapping in other ways.

Home sales? Apartments that allow dogs? Traffic accidents? Specific types of crime? The possibilities are endless.

I owe the inspiration for this first map to fellow journalist and Steamboat Today reader Kelly Jones, who started plotting the bear calls she read about in the police blotter.

My hope is this first map will be another tool to keep the dialogue going about how residents here can more peacefully coexist with these awesome animals and help to keep them out of trouble.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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