An off-duty Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy was injured early Sunday morning when a bear swiped at her, authorities said.
Erin Smiddy was attacked around 2 a.m. while walking down an alleyway between Galena and Mill streets in Aspen, according to a statement from the Aspen Police Department. She was treated at Aspen Valley Hospital for injuries to her abdomen and leg and released, the statement said.
Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Smiddy received stitches following the incident and is doing well. He said he will give her a few days off from work this week.
“She’s sore, but she’s fine,” DiSalvo said Sunday evening. “She just surprised a bear near a dumpster. She’s tough. I don’t know who was more scared, her or the bear.”
Police believe the same bear had been in a trash bin in the same alleyway about half an hour earlier. At that time, an Aspen police officer responded to a report of people crowding around the bear. The officer frightened the bear away using lights and sirens on his patrol vehicle, the statement said. The bear reportedly then fled through a courtyard near St. Mary’s Church.
Immediately following the attack on Smiddy, police alerted Colorado Parks and Wildlife of the situation, the statement said. The state agency was reportedly attempting to locate the bear Sunday. The so-called “three strikes” rule does not apply to bears that attack humans, and if found and identified, the bear could be euthanized, police said.
The department asked that the public take steps to prevent future incidents:
• If walking through town at night, walk in well-lit areas, and try to avoid locations such as alleys that might be attractive to bears by containing trash bins or grease traps from restaurants.
• If you see a bear, do not approach it, keep moving and give the bear ample space. Although naturally docile, black bears can react unpredictably under stress from humans.
• If you encounter a bear unexpectedly, back away slowly, make yourself appear larger by raising your hands or pulling a jacket over your head and make loud noises. Black bears are known to make false charges at people, so resist the urge to run, as this could trigger a chase response from the bear.
More information about bear encounters can be found online at www.aspenbears.com or by calling 970-429-1768.