DOW plans programs for bear issue

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— Wildlife officials likely will resurrect a public outreach and volunteer program designed to tackle Steamboat Springs' ongoing issue with bears.

During an area Colorado Division of Wildlife meeting this week, a dozen district managers agreed it was appropriate to schedule a public meeting to educate community members about bears. The hope is to garner interest for the agency's "Bear Aware" program, which trains volunteers to canvas area neighborhoods with educational information about bears.

Officials likely will host the public meeting and a subsequent "Bear Aware" training in the next two or three weeks.

The decision came in the wake of wildlife officials and other law enforcement agencies fielding dozens of calls daily about bear sightings in recent weeks. A mother bear was destroyed July 30 after she was trapped for breaking into at least four Steamboat Springs homes.

Libbie Miller, a district wildlife manager working in South Routt, said resurrecting the program could help curb the mounting bear problem. The program hasn't been in place in at least four or five years, she said.

"It's a hot issue in town right now," she said. "With people being emotionally linked and interested in what's going on, I bet we get a good turnout."

The presentation will include information about why bears are searching for alternative food sources and how to keep bears from getting into the trash that lures them inside city limits.

Jim Haskins, an area district manager, said people need to comply with the city's trash ordinance. Residents living in Steamboat Springs are supposed to use wildlife-proof trash cans, and are not allowed to put out trash until after 6 a.m. on trash collection day.

Steamboat Springs Public Safety Director J.D. Hays said since December, five residents have been cited for violating the ordinance and five have been issued warnings.

City officials were given the directive to be vigilant in enforcing the ordinance.

Bear sightings and complaints continue to pour in, Haskins said.

Several reports of an injured bear have been documented in the Rockies Way area, and a rancher reported a bear killing 13 sheep south of Hayden on Tuesday, Haskins said.

In other business, wildlife officials discussed recent reports of a mountain lion sighting at the Promontory Condominiums near Ski Trail Lane and AprÃs Ski Way. Most recently, a sighting was reported at about 4:30 p.m. Monday on Village Drive.

None of the sightings have been confirmed, Haskins said.

"We could possibly have a mountain lion in town, but as of yet, we haven't had a substantiated mountain lion lighting," he said.

- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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