More bears, including one with broken legs, killed near Aspen | AspenTimes.com

More bears, including one with broken legs, killed near Aspen

Two wounded bears, including one with two broken back legs, were euthanized in the Aspen area in the past two days, officials said Thursday.

The bear with the broken legs had been sighted a few times in the past week or so in the area of the Pitkin County Landfill and Aspen Village, said Alex Burchetta, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, and Kurtis Tesch, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Tesch said CPW received a report approximately a week ago about a bear with two broken legs at the landfill. However, when he arrived the bear was gone and they couldn't find it.

On Wednesday, Burchetta said emergency dispatchers received a call about the bear walking around only on its front legs and dragging its rear end behind it about 4:50 p.m. The bear was seen in the upper fields above Aspen Village heading toward Highway 82, he said.

When Burchetta arrived on the scene, he said the bear was about 25 yards from the highway, but retreated back up a nearby hill when he got out of his vehicle. He said he saw it dragging its hind legs and walking only on its front legs.

"It was not good," Burchetta said. "(The bear) was not in good condition."

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A CPW officer arrived soon after, shot the bear and collected the carcass, he said. Tesch said the only choice was to kill the animal.

"That one was going to be put down as soon as we found it," he said.

That bear was the 18th bear euthanized in the Aspen area this summer, Tesch said.

Perry Will, another area CPW wildlife manager, said a second wounded bear was shot and killed Tuesday or Wednesday in the upper Fryingpan Valley.

That bear was bleeding profusely and trying to break into a parked car, then charged an area resident, he said. The bear likely cut itself on a dumpster, Will said.

A spring freeze essentially destroyed the acorn crop this year, leaving bears without a major food source, Tesch said. That has brought them into populated areas, unsecured garbage cans and people's kitchens in search of food, he said.

While Tesch has only been in the area for two years, he said longtime CPW employees believe this is one of the worst bear years since 2008 or 2009. Further, he said people are to blame for 95 percent — and possibly 100 percent — of the bear deaths this year.

People don't secure their trash, and leave doors and windows open and unlocked for bears to enter. The trash attracts the bears, who begin wandering around houses and getting through open windows, then learn to break the windows to get into houses, Tesch said.

"It's a people issue," he said. "People just don't seem to understand. It would significantly decrease the number of incidents (if people secured trash, doors and windows)."

Bears that can't find enough food will die, Tesch said.

"It's nature's check on the population," he said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

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