Homeowner: ‘I had to shoot the bear’
BACHELOR GULCH – Bachelor Gulch homeowner John Tietbohl shot and wounded a 150-pound bear Tuesday outside his Daybreak Ridge home.”I had to shoot the bear,” said Tietbohl. “It was determined to get inside this house.” Craig Westcoatt of the Colorado Division of Wildlife Wednesday followed the bear’s blood trail but lost it after a quarter mile. He said the animal was bleeding heavily. He guessed it was 2 or 3 years old. The Colorado Division of Wildlife is investigating the incident to decide what, if any, charges will be filed. Late frosts this year killed the fruit buds on nut and berry bushes on which the bears depend for their fall feast. A bad natural food season for bears this year and expanding human population into bear habitat has created more bear-human encounters than any year on record. Last week wildlife officers put down a bear in Beaver Creek that had repeatedly entered a home on Fairway Drive.On the night of the shooting, Tietbohl and his fiancee, fearing for their safety, decided to spend the night at the Ritz-Carlton in Bachelor Gulch because the bear was trying persistently to get inside their home. Tietbohl said he had begun carrying a 9 mm Beretta pistol as protection.He called the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office to report the situation on the day before the shooting. Wildlife officers said they’d bring him some rubber buckshot to discourage the bear, but the shooting occurred before it could be delivered, officers said.Eyeball to eyeball
“Every window we looked out the bear was looking in at us,” he said. “The bear was circling the house. It was bizarre.”Tietbohl said he had walked his fiancee to his vehicle at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, shut her door then turned and walked around to the driver’s side and the bear was in the driveway coming toward him, he said.That’s when he shot it. The bear ran off.”It was something that I didn’t like to have to do, but I didn’t have an alternative,” he said.Bachelor Gulch public safety patrollers repeatedly fired pepper spray at the bear on the day of the shooting. Tietbohl said the bear would run around the other side of the house from the patrollers and this went on all day.Earlier in the week Tietbohl said he had opened the garage door and had walked away for less than five minutes and the bear had grabbed a bag of trash. When Tietbohl walked around the corner, he came face to face with the bear and it “bluff”-charged him. That’s when he said he began to carry the pistol. He even fired a warning shot into the air and said that didn’t seem to work either.”I’ve been living with this bear for five or six weeks,” he said. “It would walk right up to you on the deck. It no longer was afraid of people.”Broken nut wagon
Tietbohl said he’s seen plenty of bears and he’s used to dealing with them. “I grew up in central Pennsylvania and I’m used to backpacking and I know about bears,” he said.The Tietbohls, who have a 10 year-old son and 13 year-old daughter, moved into their new home just three months ago. He said he was afraid to let his kids go outside because the bear was always there.The bear entered the house three times. Once by pushing open a sliding glass door and on a couple of occasions, opening a latched door by pushing on the levered handle, Tietbohl said. “Bear scat, on the front door step or the patio was a daily occurrence,” he said.Westcoatt theorized the bear, when it was younger, may have visited the home while it was under construction and may have been fed by construction crews or have gone through the trash left on the site and learned to equate the house with food. Westcoatt said at the time of the shooting that the Tietbohls had no garbage, birdfeeders or even a dirty barbecue grill that may have attracted the bear.Jim Funk, director of Beaver Creek Security, has had his crews busy trying to discourage bears from visiting Dumpsters and houses. His crews have reports of 93 bear encounters in Beaver Creek this summer – about three times as many reports as last summer.”Bears have been walking through the (Beaver Creek) plaza. The nut wagon was broken apart,” said Funk. “It’s been one thing after another this summer.”We’ve got a family or related bears who have been taught the lesson that Dumpsters mean food,” he said. “We’ve got to remove that food source.”Funk added that all the bears he has encountered have been docile.
Beaver Creek is considering implementing regulations – with fines for violations – that require residents and businesses to use bear-proof trash containers.’Lock your doors’ Bears are a common sight in Bachelor Gulch and Beaver Creek, which before being developed into upscale residential housing, was prime bear habitat. Residents there say they’re used to seeing the bears and to taking precautions to keep from enticing them into close contact.Bachelor Gulch resident John Maher said the shooting saddens him. “It’s regrettable,” he said. “Part of the charm of living in this kind of environment is the exposure to wildlife. They were here first. It’s up to us to figure out how to coexist. “This is the time of year when they are feeding heavily,” he said. “You have to be careful and lock your doors. People here like the bears.”Bears go on an eating binge this time of year to fatten up prior to hibernation. During the binge they consume up to 20,000 calories per day – the equivalent of 40, 500-calorie peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a day. Homeowners are cautioned to remove all food sources from outside their homes – pet food, bird feeders and garbage – and wildlife officers have promoted these ideas with the slogan, “A fed bear is a dead bear.”Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or firstname.lastname@example.org