Our View: Be bear aware | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Be bear aware

A 2-year-old black bear got into several trash cans April 8 in downtown Steamboat Springs before Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials tranquilized him for relocation to the Meeker area. The bear was put down April 18 after destroying a farmer’s bee hive.
Courtesy Kevin Dietrich

It was sad to learn this week that a bear euthanized in Meeker for disturbing a farmer’s beehive had been relocated to that area from Steamboat Springs. The bear was the first bear in Colorado state wildlife officials had to kill this spring.

It was also distressing to see some of the story’s online comments that came down hard on Colorado Parks and Wildlife for its decision to kill the bear. This criticism is misplaced. Parks and Wildlife, an agency that exists to conserve wildlife, was just doing its job and followed agency protocol.

Humans have a role to play in keeping bears safe by making sure we’re not enticing them into town by not properly securing our trash and other food sources, which are especially attractive to hungry bears just emerging from winter hibernation.

As Steamboat Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf posted on Parks and Wildlife’s Facebook page, “Please realize that the fate of this bear (the one relocated from Steamboat and killed in Meeker) and others is dependent on our actions as a community to minimize and eliminate human-supplied food sources.”

The number of bears Parks and Wildlife is forced to kill varies from year to year and is related to weather, the availability of natural food sources and how much food bears have easy access to in residential areas.

Bears getting into garbage is one of the leading causes of conflicts between humans and bears, so we encourage people to abide by the rules when it comes to trash.

The city requires residents and business owners to store trash outdoors only in wildlife-resistant containers. Trash containers that are not bear-resistant should be kept indoors until trash pickup day and then only placed outside between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on that day. Fines for violating city code range from $250 to $750, and those who receive a citation are required to upgrade their trash receptacle to a bear-resistant one.

Local police also ask people to report it when they see a bear in the trash. Law enforcement works with Parks and Wildlife to keep an eye on nuisance bears to minimize the potential for conflict.

At a glance

At issue: A black bear, which was relocated from Steamboat, had to be killed by wildlife officers in Meeker because it had another problem encounter.

Our view: People need to take responsibility to keep bears safe by bear-proofing their trash, taking bird feeders inside and making sure they don’t leave food in their cars.

Editorial Board

  • Logan Molen, publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Robin Stone, community representative
  • Steve Hofman, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.

People are also advised to put away bird feeders and make sure they don’t leave food in their cars. We know Steamboat bears seem especially adept at breaking into Subarus and making a snack out of candy bars and half-eaten fast food.

The Parks and Wildlife website — cpw.state.co.us/bears — contains pages upon pages of information about bears, including bear aware videos, a living with bears brochure, a home audit checklist for bear-proofing a home, information on how to bear-proof your trash and even instructions for building a secure beehive enclosure.

Bears coming out of hibernation are extremely hungry. They are driven by their stomachs, and their keen noses allow them to smell food from 5 miles away. Steamboat police began receiving calls about problem bears in the spring, and the volume of calls ramps up in the summer.

Now is the time for people to learn about the rules governing trash and make sure they are not contributing to the problem of bears becoming food conditioned, which increases the chances of conflicts between bears and humans.

So, if you have any questions about how to stay bear aware and avoid conflicts, Parks and Wildlife is your source for expert information. Follow their guidelines, and let’s all work together to make sure we’re doing our part to keep these amazing creatures safe and far away from humans.

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