Three bears spotted in West Vail |

Three bears spotted in West Vail

Preston Utley/Daily file photoVail is in the second summer of stricter garbage laws aimed at keeping bears away. Officials did not have kill any bears in town last year after the new rules went into effect.

VAIL, Colorado ” Three bear sightings in a week make this clear: Bear season is back in Vail.

The first reported sighting of the year was Sunday, when a resident saw a bear on Geneva Drive in West Vail. The man said it looked like it weighed about 100 pounds.

“He said it was ‘big,'” the police report said.

A bear was spotted again on Tuesday, also on Geneva Drive, busting into two latched, “wildlife resistant” trash cans. A Vail police officer bombarded the bear with pepper balls, but that seemed to barely faze the animal, police said. It later wandered off, the report said.

A third bear sighting was reported Tuesday east of Donovan Pavilion, when a policeman ended up chasing the bear into the woods above the Matternhorn neighborhood.

“When people start seeing them, that’s when we know they’re out and about,” said Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Division of Wildlife. “It’s a good reminder time for people to remember all the usual bear precautions.”

That means doing more than using bear-proof or bear-resistant trash cans ” which is already required by Vail law ” Hampton said.

People shouldn’t feed their pets outside and shouldn’t hang birdfeeders that bears can get to, Hampton said. Also, residents should clean outdoor grills after they use them, he said.

David Prowell, assistant general manager of Park Meadows Lodge in the Matterhorn neighborhood ” where a bear was reported Tuesday ” said he hasn’t spotted any bears around the lodge yet this year. But last year, a big, 350-pound bear would regularly come around the neighborhood, he said.

The Park Meadows Lodge is careful not to attract bears ” the hotel has a bear-proof trash can and makes sure no other food is around for the bears to get at, he said.

“We don’t want a bear to come in here and get in some sort of trouble and have to get euthanized,” Prowell said. “We love the bears.”

Two years ago, Vail had problems with bears coming into town looking for food. Four bears were captured after they broke into homes, and two were euthanized by wildlife officials. Another bear broke into a home and swatted at a 72-year-old woman.

Later that year, the town passed laws that require all homeowners to have wildlife-resistant or wildlife-proof trash cans.

Last year, the first summer with the bear rules in effect, was marked by a lack of bear break-ins in Vail, and officials touted the success of the new bear rules. Meanwhile, the rest of northwest Colorado saw lots of bear problems ” the Division of Wildlife killed 35 problem bears in the region, including four in Beaver Creek.

Hampton said it’s hard to tell how this bear season will turn out. Drought can drive bears into towns to look for food, but this winter’s plentiful snow is starting the spring with lots of moisture and staving off an early bloom that could fall victim to a frost, Hampton said.

“We’re optimistic,” Hampton said. “We have the factors right now that could lead to a good year for bears, but it’s too early to really tell.”

From Vail police reports:

May 4, 1700 block of Geneva Drive: “Bear was across the street from Geneva Drive. The bear went into the backyard. Resident saw the bear and said it looked to be about 100 pounds. He said it was “big.” Resident observed bear from his back porch residence. The bear was in his neighbor’s backyard. Resident decided to go to sleep and didn’t see any further sign of bear activity. There were no containers at curbside and no evidence the bear had been feeding.”

May 6, 1700 block of Geneva Drive: “Resident was on the phone and heard trash cans rattling and believed there was a bear on the porch. Resident was scared to leave his room upstairs. Officer arrived and noticed the very large bear. The bear had opened up two bear compliant trash cans, which were latched. Resident will relate the information to the landlord that she needs to upgrade her container to bear proof. Officer struck bear with multiple pepper balls, which had little effect. The bear then wandered off toward Alpine.”

May 6, 1600 block of South Frontage Road: “Officer reported seeing bear on the east side of Donovan Pavilion, somewhere down the bike path and on the road. A citizen advised that another party saw the bear by the new Cascade Apartments. Bear location was later updated to the Gold Peak area and Cold Stream on the west end. Officer could see the bear from the South Frontage Road and proceeded to chase the bear back up the mountain around Matterhorn.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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