Aspen Police report early season bear sightings

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
A bear walks through a backyard in Old Snowmass Monday afternoon.
Linda Hayes/Special to The Aspen Times |

Bears in March?

That’s what the Aspen Police Department and others report.

The Police Department has received two calls about bear sightings within the past four days, according to Aspen Police Department community response officer Dave Paschal.

The first bear sighting occurred Sunday night near the Aspen Ice Garden skating rink, which is located just a few blocks from downtown.

On Monday, police received another call from someone who spotted a bear near both Galena and Dean streets.

Paschal and Aspen police community response supervisor Gretchen Born said it’s likely the same bear, not only because the sightings took place within a couple of blocks from each other, but also because of how unusual it is for any bear — let alone more than one — to be out at this time of year.

March “seems awfully early,” Paschal said, adding that late April or May is generally more typical.

In fact, in Paschal’s near 20-year tenure at the Police Department, the officer said he does not think he’s ever come across bears this early in the spring season.

Last spring, The Aspen Times reported that three bear-related calls came in to the Aspen Police Department on April 3. One call was for a bear sighting and the other two calls reported that dumpsters had been knocked over.

Born said the inconsistent weather patterns may be at fault for the bear’s early awakening.

“The weather is up and down for us just like it is for them,” Born said. “They’re not certain that winter is over, and neither are we.”

Paschal said he hopes it is only one bear that has been reported, as late spring storms will make it difficult for him to find natural food sources.

Paschal reminds the community to keep their trash disposals locked at all times in an effort to protect bears and other wildlife.

“It’s a year-round ordinance, but I’ve noticed occasionally people aren’t always buttoning them (garbage containers) down during the winter,” Paschal said. “It may seem early, but apparently one’s already out.”

Those who don’t comply face hefty fines, with a first offense costing $250, a second costing $500 and a third costing $999, plus a mandatory court appearance, according to city ordinances.