Aspen seeing bears in trees, trash and houses |

Aspen seeing bears in trees, trash and houses

A baby bear sleeps in a spruce tree outside of the Aspen courthouse on Wednesday. The cub's mom was in a branch nearby.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Employees at the Pitkin County Courthouse arrived to work Wednesday morning to find a surprise in the big blue-spruce tree out front.

A mother bear and two cubs were ensconced at least 100 feet up in the branches of the tree. The bears continued to draw a crowd all day, forcing Aspen police officers to later cordon off the area in front of the courthouse in case they came down.

ReRe Baker, Pitkin County’s animal safety director, was standing outside the building in the morning and said a male bear might have forced the mother and cubs up the tree. Male bears will kill cubs in order to mate with females, she said.

The mother bear appeared to be asleep for much of the morning, while one of the cubs could be seen climbing around among the branches and napping on a branch. Workers at the courthouse were able to snap pictures from the large courtroom on the courthouse’s second story.

Baker said she’s gotten calls about bears lately in Mountain Valley and Red Mountain, though there have not been a ton of calls.

In the city, however, it’s been a different story.

“Every single day we’re getting lots and lots of bear calls,” Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said.

Just in the past week, the city received 42 calls about bears ranging from bears in trash cans and trees to breaking into houses, according to the city’s internal bear report. Bears broke into houses on Alice Lane on Friday and Saturday by crashing through windows, according to the report.

In August, bears broke into homes in Aspen’s city limits 23 times, according to Aspen police statistics. Wildlife officials warn those who live on the first floor to keep their windows closed.

Kurtis Tesch, wildlife manager in the Aspen area for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the bears’ food sources are minimal this year. The acorn crop this year froze and the berries have been few and far between, he said.

“There’s not going to be a whole lot out there for them this fall,” Tesch said.

So far this summer, Tesch said he’s euthanized about nine bears and relocated a few others. He said city and county residents should continue to keep first-floor windows closed and locked as trash and the maturing crab apple crop are drawing the animals into Aspen.

“We’re having problems with them not only coming into town, but breaking into houses,” he said. “There needs to be a group effort all around.

“People need to be extra-vigilant because it’s going to be a long fall.”

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