AVON, Colorado-- At least 20 people gathered around a crab apple tree in Avon Wednesday afternoon to get a closer look at a young bear who stopped for a meal.
The bear was in the area behind Avon Plaza and 51 Beaver Creek Place, where employees and owners at surrounding businesses had seen him Tuesday afternoon around the same time. He climbed a crab apple tree in front of Domino's Pizza and was eating the fruit, seemingly unfazed by the gawkers who gathered at the intersection of East Beaver Creek Boulevard and Beaver Creek Place to take photos and stare.
One woman drove by in an Audi wagon and yelled at a woman who was taking a photo of the bear.
"You're the reason why they get put down," the woman yelled as she slowly drove by. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
Avon police officer Avon Police Officer Jonathan Lovins arrived and dispersed the crowd just before the bear came down from the tree and climbed up another tree nearby, he said. The bear then scurried off behind Avon Plaza, and then behind Buck Creek Plaza.
"I lost sight of it - I was trying to follow it," Lovins said.
The bear had been seen on a roof at Avon Plaza earlier before it attracted a crowd around the crab apple tree.
"He's just sitting in the tree, munching," said Jon Beckman, who works at Domino's Pizza.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife was called but an officer didn't make it out in time before officers lost his trail, Lovins said, adding that the bear looked in an open back door of a business and an employee inside shooed it away.
The bear didn't appear to be tagged, Lovins said.
"If they get trapped, they get tagged - they only get so many chances," he said. "No one wants to see a bear put down."
Lovins is referring to the two-strike policy. Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said the policy means that a bear that is relocated one time gets tagged. If that same bear ends up in that same situation again, then it's euthanized.
'A bear is just being a bear'
Porras said the department doesn't always respond to every bear call because there are many times "when a bear is just being a bear."
"A bear eating fruit out of a crab apple tree is generally not something we would be concerned about," Porras said, adding that if that bear gets aggressive or gets into trash consistently, officials become more concerned about its threat to public safety.
The worst thing people can do when they see a bear is to crowd around it and make it nervous, Porras said. Unfortunately, that's exactly what many of the people checking out the bear Wednesday were doing.
"It's usually not a threat unless it feels cornered or threatened, or if they've become habituated to human food," Porras said.
Basically, if bears start to associate humans as sources for food, the danger increases.
"The best thing people can do is leave it alone," he said. "Bears are nomadic; they move - they won't stay in one spot too long."
Bears who do hang around for a long time and cause problems are concerning, though, which is why some local employees were worried about the Avon bear's fate Wednesday.
"He's not ferocious - he just must have no food," said Kathy Martin, who works at the UPS Store.
Tracy Sample, a manager at Venture Sports, said the bear "wasn't bothering anyone at all." She was sad at the thought that the bear's quest for food could get him killed.
Sample said she called Colorado Parks and Wildlife and an officer told her that if the bear isn't bothering anyone, than there's no need to act. She feared all the attention the bear was getting would seal its fate, though.
As of Wednesday evening, however, the bear had left the area and didn't appear to be tagged. That means if the bear does return and ends up captured, it would have one more chance before wildlife officials would have to put it down.
Porras added that relocation isn't always as effective as people might think.
"Once it learns where an easy source of a meal is, it doesn't matter where you take them - it's likely they'll resume that behavior there," Porras said. "It's critical that people remember the more they can do to prevent these conflicts, the better off everyone is. ... A fed bear is a dead bear."
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.