Some bears already awake in city |

Some bears already awake in city

CPW says human food sources disrupting hibernation

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials believe this bear-resistant trash cart used by a business near Pine Grove Road in Steamboat Springs was likely over-filled and not latched securely. Human sources of food can disrupt normal bear hibernation.
CPW/Courtesy photo

The first annual bear sightings within the city limits of Steamboat Springs are appearing gradually earlier, which Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials attribute to bears stirring from hibernation and easily finding human trash and food sources.

“Once they got up and started eating trash, they are up,” said Christy Bubenheim, CPW administrative assistant in Steamboat for 14 years.

“This is becoming the new norm that we are having bears wake up earlier and earlier,” Bubenheim said. “The trash abundance and availability for these bears is not helping their well-being or their motivations to go back into or stay in hibernation. One of the reasons that bears hibernate is there is a lack of natural food sources in the winter for them.”

A pair of likely male sibling bears, estimated to be between four and five years old, were first seen on Feb. 28 in the Fish Creek area within city limits, Bubenheim said, noting that male bears biologically are first to awake from hibernation.

“It seems historically that bears were waking up in late March and early April,” Bubenheim said.

But this year, sightings started in late February.

The pair was later recorded on March 5 via an existing CPW game camera in playful behavior when the temperature was 41 degrees, Bubenheim said. That video is posted on the CPW Steamboat Facebook page.

Bubenheim said the first bear report of the year within city limits was March 19 in 2016, March 23 in 2017, April 7 in 2018, April 2 in 2019 and March 12 in 2020.

“We need to be bear-aware starting now. That means taking down bird feeders, securing trash, not leaving food in vehicles, locking vehicles, and locking windows on the main level of home,” she said.

An adult bear also was seen this year in the area of Meadow Lane and Village Drive south of Walton Creek.

Steamboat Springs Police Department Community Service Officer Gene Lee said he noticed multiple unsecured dumpsters while driving around Steamboat Friday morning. Lee asks residents, employees and visitors to always properly secure dumpsters and to make sure trash is not mistakenly placed in recycling containers. Since starting on the job in May 2021, Lee said he witnessed many occasions of bags of trash left outside dumpsters in condo complexes utilized by visitors.

Bear-resistant residential or commercial trash carts that have been distributed to some areas of Steamboat also need to be double-checked to make sure the lids latch securely. Local governments, HOAs, businesses and others are eligible to apply by May 6 for new CPW community grants for improvements to reduce human and bear conflicts, with more information available at

The grant guidelines state, “Projects should have local support, be designed to prevent conflict with bears, and have tangible outcomes with realistic timelines. Highly desirable projects will model solutions to reduce conflict and are replicable by other communities, involve multiple partners, fill a need in an area with high conflict, and be innovative.”

City of Steamboat Springs ordinances require all trash containers to be certified as bear resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and dumpsters or dumpster enclosures to be bear resistant. More information:



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