DOW defends killing of problem bear in Aspen |

DOW defends killing of problem bear in Aspen

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – An Aspen resident was dismayed to learn Tuesday that a bear caught in a trap placed on her property last weekend was euthanized by state wildlife officials.

Karla Kuban said she was relieved to find that the bear captured in a trap on her Cemetery Lane driveway at about midnight Saturday had no ear tags or collar – an indication that it had no prior strikes against it for troublesome behavior. Kuban said she was hopeful the bear would be relocated and released – essentially given a second chance – and that she pleaded for that outcome with the wildlife officer who handled the animal. The officer, she said, made no promises.

“I trusted them to do the right thing and they didn’t,” Kuban said Tuesday. “I put my trust in the process and I’m very upset.”

Kuban conceded the bear had been “terrorizing” the neighborhood – it was apparently the same bear that destroyed her backyard aviary last week and poked its nose briefly into her open sliding door – but she said she was saddened and disappointed with the DOW’s decision to kill it.

She also acknowledged the difficult task that bear/human interactions create for wildlife officers, and commended them for the job they do, but said she’d be hesitant to contact the DOW again about a problem bear.

“I wish there had been a better solution,” she said.

So does the DOW, said spokesman Randy Hampton.

Two bears were actually trapped last weekend in Kuban’s neighborhood, he said. One, a young bear that hadn’t been on the agency’s radar, was released in south-central Colorado.

The bear captured in Kuban’s driveway, though it had not been caught and tagged previously, was familiar to DOW officers, he said. Although it did not break into Kuban’s house, it entered another area home and broke the handle off a sliding glass door at yet another residence, according to Hampton.

Wildlife officers considered the bear’s physical characteristics and habits in identifying it as the animal that had been causing the problems, he said. In addition, a bear’s behavior in a trap is a clue as to how habituated it is to humans, Hampton said. Kuban described the bear as “docile” – unafraid of people, in other words, Hampton said.

“It’s important for people to understand the two-strike policy is for nuisance bears,” Hampton added.

The first strike for a nuisance bear means relocating it, but a bear that is breaking door handles is a potentially dangerous animal and is treated differently, he said.

“It was a bear we had a history on,” he said. “The reality is, we can relocate that bear, but it’s going to break into somebody else’s home.”

Kuban’s misgivings aside, Hampton urged citizens to continue to contact the DOW when bear problems occur. The earlier the agency intervenes, the sooner it can teach residents how to deter, rather than attract the animal, and the quicker it can trap and relocate a bear that is merely a nuisance, rather than a danger, Hampton said.

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