Ranch manager shoots bear that attacked goats south of Steamboat

A large bear made its way through Old Town in Steamboat Springs in June 2021, stopping periodically at trashcans looking for scraps. Bears have invaded homes in Steamboat Springs at an alarming rate in 2022. Last week, a bear that killed goats and was suspected of breaking into nearby homes was killed by a ranch manager.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Humble Ranch manager Jay Trousil woke up at 2 a.m. Saturday, July 15, to the sound of screaming goats.

He grabbed his gun and ran outside before encountering a bear mauling a 200-pound goat. He shot the bear three times with a .45-70 rifle.

The bear, which Trousil said was estimated to be about 425 pounds, was a familiar foe. Trousil said the bear, identified by a white heart-shaped mark on his chest, had been to the Humble Ranch before, killing two goats over the last two years. 

Trousil reported the incidents to Colorado Parks and Wildlife and was issued rubber slugs. He had since shot the bear twice with the rubber slugs, and chased it off with a car, but had not yet seen the bear this summer until last week. 

Nevertheless, Trousil was ready when the animal did return. On the most recent occasion, the bear killed three goats, bringing his total number of victims at Humble Ranch to five.

“We could have shot him a couple times prior to this, but we tried to use rubber slugs to deter him,” Trousil said. “It’s not fun to shoot bears in that circumstance. … It’s unfortunate that’s how it happened.”

Black bears are omnivores, meaning they eat plants and animals. According to CPW, 90% of a black bear’s diet consists of grasses, berries, fruits, nuts and plants, with the remaining percentage generally being insects and scavenged carcasses.

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Because the bear was actively killing a goat, Trousil was within his rights to shoot the animal. 

“When (bears) are in the act of killing livestock, (people) are allowed to defend their livestock,” said Josh Dilley, assistant area wildlife manager for CPW. 

Black Bears at a glance
  • Black is a species, not a color. In Colorado, many black bears are blonde, cinnamon, or brown.
  • With their bulky fur coats, bears can look bigger than they are. Males average 275 lbs.; females average 175 lbs.
  • Over 90% of a bear’s natural diet is grasses, berries, fruits, nuts and plants. The rest is primarily insects and scavenged carcasses.
  • Black bears are very wary of people and other unfamiliar things. Their normal response to any per­ceived danger is to run away or climb a tree.
  • Most Colorado bears are active from mid-March through early November. When food sources dwindle they head for winter dens.
  • With a nose that’s 100 times more sensitive than ours, a bear can literally smell food five miles away.
  • Bears are very smart, and have great memories – once they find food, they come back for more.
  • During late summer and early fall bears need 20,000 calories a day to gain enough fat to survive the winter without eating or drinking.
  • Bears are not naturally nocturnal, but sometimes travel at night in hopes of avoiding humans.

Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife

After every shooting of a bear, CPW conducts an investigation to attempt to determine if the shooting was legal.

It is illegal to fire a gun within Steamboat Springs city limits unless the carrier is “discharging the firearm in lawful defense of person or property,” according to city code.

Firing a gun within city limits just to scare a bear is illegal and, as Dilley noted, likely more dangerous than anything the bear could do. 

“If you feel threatened, you can take action to prevent that,” he said. “You have to be careful. Once you fire a bullet, you’re responsible. Wherever that goes, that’s on you.”

That applies once a bear enters someone’s home as well. However, engaging a bear inside a building can be risky. The biggest factor to consider when deciding to engage the animal is whether the bear has a clear exit. 

“Try and get them out of there. Make some noise, all the things you would do if you encountered a bear outside,” advised Dilley. “If the situation warrants, obviously you can go into a room and close the door and call dispatch.”

The bear shot on Humble Ranch could have been the same bear that’s broken into multiple homes in a neighborhood near Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area.

Following one recent break-in, CPW set a trap at a home to try to catch the bear. However, that effort was unsuccessful, and the trap was removed on Tuesday, July 19. 

While there’s no way to know for sure whether the bear that was shot was the same one that invaded the nearby homes, Dilley said the description was similar. 

As CPW officers have been since spring, Dilley stressed that people should not keep their doors and windows open, even during the day, even if they are home. Bears are not nocturnal, can detect a scent up to five miles away and have taken advantage of many unlocked windows in Steamboat this year.

“We hit a hot streak here with the weather and people are leaving their windows and doors open because it is so hot,” Dilley said. “And those bears are opportunistic when they smell something inside.”

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