ASPEN - The bear that attacked an Aspen woman in her home earlier this week returned to the scene of the crime, where he was shot and killed Wednesday night.
Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said the bear was shot at 10:30 p.m. on Maureen Hirsch's property, on Sneaky Lane in the Castle Creek drainage. Hirsch was attacked by the bear Monday night after she came face to face with it near her kitchen.
The next night, it's believed the same bear broke into John Case's home on Mountain View Drive, not far from Hirsch's residence. In both incidents, the bear entered the home through locked French doors.
DOW officers and Aspen police have been searching for the bear, estimated to weigh 400-plus pounds, since it attacked Hirsch.
Hirsch was confronted by the bruin shortly after 10 p.m.; it swiped her back and chest as she turned to open the front door to create an exit for him. She sustained minor injuries and was treated at Aspen Valley Hospital.
"We're fairly certain it's the bear," Hampton said.
Wildlife officers, who for the past two days have been monitoring Hirsch's property during the night, encountered a large, male black bear on Wednesday night that matched the description of the aggressive bear blamed for Monday's attack.
"We placed our personnel at the scene of the earlier attack knowing that bears are highly likely to return to the places where they have previously found food," said Perry Will, DOW area wildlife manager, in a press release. "Because the bear had eaten some food after breaking into the home Monday, the hunch paid off and the bear returned to the home at almost the same time of night as the original incident."
Wildlife officers spotted the bear near a trap that had been placed on the property. The trap proved ineffective at capturing the animal, though. He went into it and flipped over the foot pedal that would have closed the door, ate the bait and walked out, Hampton said.
Whether the bear purposely rendered the trap useless is difficult to say, Hampton added. "Bears are very intelligent," he said.
The bear wandered the property for a short time before wildlife officers approached him to make a positive identification. Based on the matching description - the bear had a distinctively large head and a brown hue - and the fact that he exhibited no fear of people, officers killed him on the spot.
"I'm convinced, based on my training and experience, that this is the bear responsible for the Monday night incident," Will said.
The bear was the fourth killed by the DOW in the Aspen/Snowmass area this summer. Three others have been trapped and relocated.
Meanwhile, Aspen police responded to several other reports of bears forcing their way into homes on Wednesday night.
"We have a pretty large criminal element in terms of bears," said Hampton, who put the blame on people who ignore county and city laws that prohibit unsecured trash. "The sad thing is that they (bears) are doing what they were trained to do."
DOW officials urge Aspen-area residents to take care of bear attractants such as trash, pet food, barbecue grills, bird feeders and fruit trees. Information about how to live responsibly in bear habitat is available on the DOW website at http://wildlife.state.co.us (click on Education).