Lock up your trash for bears’ safety — and yours | SteamboatToday.com

Lock up your trash for bears’ safety — and yours

A two-year-old black bear got into several trash cans in downtown neighborhoods in April before officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife tranquilized him for relocation. The incident is a reminder to secure dumpsters and vehicles as wildlife become more active. (Courtesy photo)
Courtesy Kevin Dietrich

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Seriously, Steamboat, keep your trash secure.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are tired of warning the public that when bears find birdseed, trash and other easy to find human-created food sources, they can lose their fear of humans and become aggressive towards people.

“How many times do we need to tell our communities to clean up trash, to make sure that trash is in bear-resistant trash containers? We continue to have the same problems over and over that lead to an animal becoming habituated or comfortable around humans and extremely dangerous,” said Kris Middledorf, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Middledorf said wildlife and police officers have responded to 55 bear-related incidents since April 1. Area dispatchers receive calls almost daily about bears pilfering through trash cans, and bears have gotten into and damaged several vehicles already this year. On Friday, a bear entered and damaged furniture in a home on Ski Trail Lane.

In April, a bear was relocated after repeatedly finding food in neighborhood trash cans and wandering near a daycare center. Wildlife officers ultimately killed the bear after it got into a domestic beehive near Meeker.

About two weeks ago, wildlife officials found that a bear that bit a hiker on a trail near Aspen had made a large meal of birdseed — its stomach contents were almost entirely birdseed, according to a Parks and Wildlife news release. The bear was tracked and killed by wildlife officers after the incident.

Wildlife officers believe it is “very likely the bear’s aggressive behavior was due to having lost its natural fear of people as it fed on backyard bird feeders,” according to the release.

Middledorf said you should report a bear sighting if a bear is acting aggressively, near your home, in your home or causing property damage. What’s more, though, he said, if you see others violating rules intended to protect both bears and humans, you should say something. 

“Folks can also call us, not just about seeing a bear, but about inappropriate behavior by their fellow community members who are not heeding this message that we’ve been saying for years,” he said. “Ultimately, the consequences can become dire. Having a dangerous animal in a high density, populated area like Steamboat Springs — that’s habituated to trash — is extremely dangerous.”

City ordinances require Steamboat residences have wildlife-resistant containers that are certified bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee or follow explicit rules to prevent bears from getting in the trash. All three of Steamboat’s waste haulers offer bear-resistant waste bins. 

If you don’t have wildlife-resistant garbage and recycling bins, you must store your waste in a building, house, garage or dumpster enclosure. Bins that aren’t wildlife-resistant must be set out after 6 a.m. and brought inside by 8 p.m.

Those who don’t comply with city code can face fines of $250 to $750. If a resident receives a citation, they also are required to upgrade to a bear-resistant trash can.

While bird feeders are allowed in city limits, wildlife officials recommend you keep them put away in the warmer months. City ordinance requires bird feeders are suspended by a cable or another device that makes them inaccessible to bears from April 15 to Nov. 15.

Middledorf added that just as the bears don’t need supplemental food, birds can also find food in the wild, particularly now when spring has insects buzzing and plants producing fruit and seeds.

You should also lock car doors and any first floor windows and doors to your home to prevent a bear breaking in to access food.

“Usually, it’s just a wrapper or some other food that was left in a car,” Middledorf said. “We tell people you need to lock your car. You need to lock your house. You need to put your trash in your garage or in a secured shed.”

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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