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Bear trouble escalates in Aspen, Glenwood Springs

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Wildlife officials euthanized a bear in Aspen last weekend and another one in Glenwood Springs, in a season that’s shaping up to be a deadly one for bruins lured by human food and irresponsibility.

“We just have a lot of bears, unfortunately, that have been habituated,” said Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton. “People have trained bears too well.”

In Aspen, a bear that had been breaking into homes in the Cemetery Lane neighborhood was trapped and killed, while a young sow was trapped and relocated to the Canon City area in southern Colorado.

So far this season, two bears have been euthanized in Aspen, and two have been relocated. The DOW has killed three bears in Glenwood Springs and relocated one; two bears have been killed in the Eagle-Vail area.

“If things continue like they are right now, this could be a worse year than we had in 2007,” Hampton said.

That year, 13 bears were euthanized in Aspen and Pitkin County, and another 24 were captured and relocated. Four cubs were taken to a rehabilitation facility.

The sow that was put down Sunday in West Glenwood had been breaking into homes with three cubs in tow, teaching her offspring the bad habits that led to her demise.

“I heard she was totally not afraid of people,” Hampton said. “People had habituated her with their trash and birdfeeders and all that stuff.”

The cubs were taken to the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation rehabilitation center near Silt with the intention of eventually releasing them back into the wild, though there’s a good chance one or more of them will get back into trouble, he said.

And, the wild is getting crowded. There aren’t that many places in Colorado that are remote enough to keep a bear from returning to the urban environment, Hampton said.

“All the wild places people think exist – they don’t exist anymore. And the wild places that do exist are full of bears,” Hampton said.

The well-publicized bear that wandered into the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs earlier this summer was trapped and taken to the Uncompahgre Plateau, south of Montrose. Four days later, it was breaking into homes in the Gateway area, and two days after that, it tried to break into a Grand Junction residence, Hampton said. It was euthanized.

Eight wildlife officers working out of the DOW’s Glenwood Springs office are doing nothing but handling bear calls, day and night, seven days a week. They are tired and frustrated, Hampton said.

After euthanizing the two bruins over the weekend, an officer was back in Aspen on Monday dealing with a bear that got into an unlocked vehicle and then into a house. Meanwhile, in West Glenwood, another bear rummaged through trash while a crowd of people stood around snapping photographs, Hampton said.

“That’s what we are dealing with multiple times a day,” he said.

Bear problems in the Roaring Fork Valley have been in the news pretty much annually for much of the past decade. Local municipalities and counties have enacted regulations that set escalating fines for unsecured trash and that require bear-resistant containers. In addition, local governments and the DOW work to get the word out annually about the need to secure garbage, lock home and vehicle doors and windows, remove birdfeeders and keep dog food inside.

Still, the DOW encounters unsecured trash and unlocked doors at a number of its bear calls, Hampton said.

“It’s not a real stretch to go from being a bear that walks through an open door to becoming a bear that tears a door off its hinges,” he said.

Though the life of the animals is ultimately at stake, some people don’t seem to care, Hampton said.

“They have almost an ‘oh well’ attitude about the problem,” he said.

janet@aspentimes.com


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