Steamboat man shoots bear that broke into his downtown home
Around 2 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, Ken Mauldin heard his German shepherd barking and his wife, Kelly, screaming.
He rushed out of his room after hearing the scream. A bear was at the top of the stairs of their Steamboat Springs home, looking at Mauldin from about 10 feet away.
A roughly 400-pound male black bear had successfully flipped the lever door handle of the Mauldins’ split-level home and made its way inside. Ken Mauldin said his family typically locks the doors at night.
The bear had a choice between two staircases, one that went down toward the rooms where the three children slept and one that went up to Ken and Kelly’s room.
Ken Mauldin shot the bear with a .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol. Then, he said, the bear charged at him. Mauldin continued firing until his gun was empty — a total of nine shots. He said he was nervous, and the bear was still on its feet.
The bear then changed direction, broke through the banister and rolled down the stairs. The animal was still breathing as it lay curled up at the bottom of the stairwell, according to Mauldin.
Sgt. Shawn Jenkins and Officers Dunte Valrey and Lidia Frescas of the Steamboat Springs Police Department were first on the scene. Colorado Parks and Wildlife responded soon after.
“This guy was lucky,” said Valrey.
Bear encounters in Steamboat Springs have been on the rise this summer, and intrusions by bears have been especially problematic. Police Commander Mark Beckett, who moved to Steamboat Springs a couple weeks ago, said he doesn’t think he’s worked a shift without a bear call of some sort.
“There are nights when we get two to three,” Beckett said.
Mauldin said he hopes his experience will encourage people in the community to do a better job securing their homes, not just for their own sake, but for the bears’ safety as well.
“I just hope that somehow it’s helpful and it leads to real constructive dialogue related to our bear policies and how we interact with bears,” Mauldin said.
Even if Mauldin hadn’t shot the bear in his home, most bears that get caught breaking into people’s homes are euthanized by state wildlife officials because the animals have identified human dwellings as sources of food.
“Bears are super smart,” said Rachael Gonzales, a public information officer for CPW. “If they figured out how to get into one, they’ll figure out how to get into another location.”
Mauldin and his wife live in a neighborhood north of downtown, near 12th Street. He said over the past few weeks, his neighbors have been reporting a bear that has been getting into other houses in the area. He wonders if it was the same bear and added that the dogs in the neighborhood have been much quieter since Saturday.
Mauldin said he regrets not locking his doors and it’s the community’s responsibility to try to prevent bear encounters.
“Understanding and addressing the risks posed by bears that have lost their natural fear of humans and are systematically entering occupied homes is going to be essential in restoring the proper balance between people and bears in our community,” Mauldin wrote in a statement.
Gonzales gave some advice for how to prevent bear encounters.
She said people should make sure to lock all doors and ground-level windows. She also advises that people lock their cars because bears are known to figure out those door handles as well.
Leaving food in cars is always a bad idea, according to Gonzales, as bears have a keen sense of smell. She also reinforced that trash should be kept in bear-proof containers and recycling should be washed thoroughly.
“And, of course, I know it feels like a broken record, bring in the bird feeders,” Gonzales said. “We don’t need them right now.”
While the dogs in Mauldin’s neighborhood have been quiet lately, he said his German shepherd is still a bit on edge.
“Our dog’s still sensitive,” Mauldin said. “Every time we hear something, he has to make a noise and get up and go look for the past couple of days.”
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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