High country bears waking up; time to secure trash | VailDaily.com

High country bears waking up; time to secure trash

By Matt Stensland | Steamboat Pilot and Today
Firefighters and Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife officers hold a tarp to catch a black bear that was tranquilized and fell from a tree May 23, 2012, in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Matt Stensland | Steamboat Pilot and Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Wildlife officials say the bears are waking up from hibernation, which means it is time for residents to start securing their trash and put bird feeders away.

Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen said his department has received at least two reports of bears getting into trash.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said black bears are waking up across the state.

In Aspen, there have been several bear sightings. In one case, a bear entered a home while a man was inside on a ventilator.

Letting a bear get into trash can be a death sentence for a bear as they become a nuisance.

In 2016, Parks and Wildlife officers euthanized five bears in the Steamboat area. Three bears were relocated.

“The bear pays the price ultimately,” Porras said.

Local wildlife officer Andrea Sponseller said bears right now are looking for an easy meal.

“They’re lethargic,” Sponseller said. “Their fat reserves are depleted, and they’re looking to start up their metabolism again.”

Having an open food source is an invitation for a visit from a bear this spring.

“A lot of bears will start to form their habits, so if they find a meal in early spring, it will be one of their favorite spots,” Sponseller said. “Right off the bat, start locking it up.”

Nuisance bear activity in 2016 was relatively mild compared to previous years, which Sponseller attributed to a productive berry crop in the forest.

“We were lucky to have a good food year for the bears,” Sponseller said. “I think last year we lucked out.”

It is unclear how plentiful the berry crop will be this year, and Sponseller said residents should consider getting a bear-proof trash can if they do not already have one.

Residents are also reminded to lock their car doors and not keep trash or food in their cars because some bears know how to open car doors, which can result in a bear destroying a vehicle’s interior.

Business owners and property managers also play a role in discouraging nuisance bears.

There were some success stories in 2016 involving businesses making efforts to secure their trash.

Central Park Plaza made modifications to their dumpster enclosures and replaced trash cans with steel, bear-proof cans.

“It seems like we’re making small steps, and that’s what it takes,” Sponseller said.

Here is a link to information outlining the city of Steamboat Springs’ wildlife-resistant trash container ordinance.

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