Robin Stone: Solving the bear problem
December 30, 2014
Let's be aware of the probable consequences during the next 30 years of the initial steps Steamboat Springs is considering to solve the bear problem.
Bear-proof trash cans should not be presented as a "solution" to the bear problem. The same bear problem that Steamboat now faces was encountered about 20-plus years ago in Lake Tahoe, California, where my mother lived. Homeowners were all required to install bear-proof metal mini-sheds secured on a concrete pylon into which they put their trash cans.
The good news: The sheds were actually bear proof, and the trash was untouched. The bad news: The intelligent bears did just what should have been expected — they found food elsewhere.
The bears began to enter homes as, naturally, they could smell the food that homes contained and that they desired. At first, it was just homes where a window had been left open or a door cracked to let in the breeze.
However, homeowners soon learned that it was mandatory to shut and lock all windows and doors whenever they were not at home during the day and at night even when they were home. But bears are intelligent. When they could find no homes with open windows or doors, they simply escalated their behavior and began to actually break into homes. My mother had a bear come through her window twice at night while she was home.
After living with the bear problem for more than 30 years, the Tahoe residents have learned a few lessons.
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First, bears are smart just like you. If the market is closed and you need milk, you will go to your neighbor's home to get some — you won't walk out of town to a dairy farm and milk a cow. If you lock up the bears' current food source (i.e. garbage cans), they will just find the next easiest source of food (i.e. homes) — they won't run back to the hills to pick berries.
Second, don't try to shoo away a bear with a garden hose — they think it is a waterfall, and they love it. Instead, keep pots and pans handy — ready to bang — because they really don't like the racket.
Third, be grateful when the intruding bear does not leaving a calling card (i.e. huge poo) on your rug. Finally, make sure you are insured — a bear can do a huge amount of damage inside your home.
This past summer, the bear problem at Tahoe lessened. No one really knows why, but there has been speculation that the 24/7 loud noise created by the road construction around the lake might have kept the bears in the mountains.
Perhaps, Steamboat leaders should find a town that has had this bear problem for 50 to 60 years and see if there have been any "solutions" or — in lieu of that — learn better how to live with the "problem."