Larry Desjardin: Let’s keep our bears wild and alive
Anyone who frequently reads “The Record” in the Steamboat Pilot & Today knows that we’ve had nearly daily bear incidents in the city this summer- and sometimes multiple times a day. Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently stated they received 266 reported bear incidents within Routt County this summer, with 85% of those within Steamboat Springs. Three of those bears were euthanized.
What’s the cause of this? Other than pure sightings, bears in trash dominated the calls at 71 reported incidents. That’s not surprising, as strewn trash from unsecured dumpsters and trash containers has littered many parts of the city.
The actual number of incidents is undoubtedly much higher, as many people resist reporting bears for fear they will be euthanized. The next most common incident was vehicle entries at seven. The statistics are clear- unsecured trash is primary cause of bear incidents in Steamboat Springs.
This is disturbing for multiple reasons. Putting aside the values we have as a community of keeping wildlife wild and natural, these bear incidents pose a public safety hazard.
The black bear is Colorado’s largest carnivore. Naturally timid around humans, bears can become aggressive when they lose their fear around people, which is exactly what happens when they become habituated to eating human food sources. There have been numerous bear attacks in Colorado this year, with three in Aspen alone. In 2009, an elderly woman was killed by a bear outside of Ouray. It was determined that she had routinely left food sources outside her home.
Trash strewn along streets and alleys. Dead bears. An increasing public safety risk.
Steamboat — we can do better.
We need a comprehensive program in Steamboat that includes bear-proofing trash, strict enforcement and public education. Fortunately, the City Council will begin looking at this issue again Tuesday. Keep Routt Wild has volunteered to work alongside the city and CPW for the development of a plan and the educational aspects of the program. This is a challenge that lends itself to best practices from other communities, the best available scientific research and innovation.
The time to act has come. Let’s keep our bears wild and alive, and our residents safe.
Keep Routt Wild president
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