Vail escapes Colorado bear barrage |

Vail escapes Colorado bear barrage

Preston Utley/Daily file photoA brown bear walks along a fence Oct. 25 in Beaver Creek. In the month previous to this photo being taken, four "problem" bears, including two cubs, were trapped and killed in Beaver Creek.

VAIL, Colorado” In a year when bears were captured and euthanized in near-record numbers across Colorado, Vail was noticeably quiet on that front, with no reported bear break-ins.

Beaver Creek, on the other hand, saw no lack of hungry bruins. Four bears ” including two cubs ” were euthanized after breaking into a home and a lodge this fall in the gated ski-resort neighborhood.

“It was a very neat bear,” said Jeannie Malato, general manager of Beaver Creek’s Chateau Residence Club, where a bear broke in about three times before it was captured and killed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

The bear figured out how to open the lodge’s automatic door and intruded several times in the middle of the night.

Each night, it headed for a cabinet in the restaurant that contained sugar and bread, never disturbing any of the tableware that was arranged each night, Malato said.

“It just went right for the cabinet where the sugar was and ripped off the same cabinet night after night,” Malato said.

The Division of Wildlife caught the bear Oct. 3 and killed it the same day.

At a Holden Road home, the state agency caught and killed three bears ” a mother and two cubs ” in September, said spokesman Tyler Baskfield.

“Chased out of house three times in one night ” both windows were closed and locked ” second window was over baby’s crib ” homeowner was very concerned,” the report said.

The homeowner’s name and exact address were expunged from the report.

Baskfield said the bears kept coming back, regardless of what the homeowner did to deter them.

The cubs, 60 pounds each, were too big to be rehabilitated, Baskfield said.

“It’s really problematic to try to teach cubs of that size a different way to collect food,” he said.

Bears are euthanized for several reasons, Baskfield said. They could be “two-strike” bears who have been caught, tagged and relocated before.

Others have lost their fear of humans or have repeatedly gotten into people’s homes. Those bears often don’t get a warning, Baskfield said.

Beaver Creek does already have strict trash rules, including requiring bear-proof trash cans and only allowing trash to be put out on pick-up days. People who don’t obey the rules are subject to fines.

In Vail, however, officials celebrated the lack of bear break-ins.

This was the first bear season with new, strict trash laws in effect in the town. Those laws were passed in 2006 after Vail saw a rash of bear break-ins. Two bears were killed and two bears were captured and relocated.

The law mandated that everyone in Vail who has curbside pickup buy a sturdy, “wildlife resistant” trash can with a metal clip. Vail police said the new trash law was the primary factor in decreasing bear incidents.

“I’m very pleased with the way it went,” said Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger.

The police gave out at least 1,000 notices about the new law. They also issued 432 warnings, 81 summonses, and fines totaling $9,020, or an average of $111.35 per summons.

The town also sent out letters and e-mails, bought radio, TV and print ads, and gave away prizes to promote its law.

There also seemed to be a bit more berries around Vail than there were around other High Country towns, which may have contributed to Vail’s lack of bear break-ins, Henninger said.

An early frost and dry weather across Northwest Colorado reduced the natural berry crop that bears rely on for food, Baskfield said. That led to problems in other parts of the state, including Aspen and Steamboat Springs.

Lax enforcement of trash laws in places like Aspen was another problem, said Bill Andree of the Division of Wildlife.

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

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