Aspen bears calls down significantly from 2012

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

The streets in Aspen are bare.

For June, July and August of 2012, there were 461 calls to the Aspen Police Department about black bears, with 12 home intrusions. This year, there have been 12 calls total since June 1, according to police department statistics.

The reason?

“Food — plain and simple,” said Dan Glidden, a wildlife enforcement officer, who attributes the abundant supply of acorns and berries in the high country to a precipitous spring and the absence of an early frost.

Last year, Glidden said, frost slowed the blossoms of buds and berries. That, compounded with sever drought, depleted the bears’ food supply.

With more time on his hands this year, Glidden said he has made his rounds in the core, educating people on taking care of their trash. Nine written warnings have been issued for disposal violations — four to business/property owners and five to homeowners. One warning to a homeowner resulted in a $250 fine.

“I’ve basically gone to the entire core area and talked to those folks, trying to get everybody up to speed,” said Glidden, who works three days a week handling bear issues.

Many seasonal or temporary residents are unfamiliar with city ordinances, said Blair Weyer, spokeswoman for the police department. And most issues are resolved with a warning and an educational interaction.

Weyer noted, however, that upkeep of disposal only goes so far.

“We recognize that regardless of the steps we take regarding trash ordinances, Mother Nature is the leading determinant as to whether or not we will have a busy bear season,” Weyer said.

As the bears prepare for hibernation, which typically begins in late October or early November, they will be eating and searching for food 20 hours a day. In 2012, there were 348 bear calls for September, 174 for October and 15 for November, with two bears euthanized for the year. In 2013, no bears have been euthanized in Aspen, Weyer said.

“This year has been vastly different in terms of precipitation and abundance of natural food sources for bears in their natural habitat,” Weyer said, “which has made our job easier.”