Aspen Village split over what to do about bears
They used to just creep into Aspen Village at night, their black fur blending in with the dark. But the bear situation is completely different this summer.Until a sow was trapped and euthanized last week, bears were regularly seen for much of the last month lumbering through the neighborhood at all times of day, exhibiting little fear of the humans all around them.Aspen Village has been a bear hangout all summer, and according to one local resident, Bob Capelle, who’s lived in the community for 27 years, “It’s never been this bad.””I have seen them every night, throwing trash cans,” said Aspen Village resident Eva Dempsey. “They’re all kinds of different ages – momma and her babies, papa alone, and papa and his friends.”There are several theories floating around as to why the bear problem in Aspen has been so rampant this summer. Some blame overpopulation stemming from a hunting ban on bears imposed in 1992, a claim largely discredited by the state Division of Wildlife. State and local wildlife officials say a severe frost in June wiped out the bears summer food source – berries and acorns – and they’ve been forced to look for alternatives. That same reasoning is applied to the problem in Summit County, which is also under a bear siege this summer.But in Aspen Village, the problem may be exacerbated by its unique location.”When you’ve got the dump next door, what do you expect?” said Bob Davis, who has lived in Aspen Village for 19 years.Some residents, including Davis, say the smell of the Pitkin County landfill lures bears to the area, and then they find their way into Aspen Village.Residents say they do not have the large bear-proof Dumpsters that can be seen in many locales around the upper valley; instead there are 155 plastic garbage cans, one for each residence, that are no match for a hungry bear.That may change soon, however. Last week, the Pitkin County commissioners passed a new ordinance requiring residents to purchase bear-proof garbage containers, forcing residents to significantly upgrade their trash receptaclesAnother significant development also occurred last week when officials from the Colorado Division of Wildlife set traps in Aspen Village, and later euthanized a sow. Her two cubs were taken to a wildlife rehabilitation specialist who will eventually let them go in the wild. The sow had been tagged – meaning she had been caught eating garbage before, using up her one and only “strike.”The killing angered some local residents, but left others wondering why it hadn’t been done sooner.”With all these little kids around here, it was just a matter of time before we had a death,” Capelle said. But he doesn’t think the bear should have been killed.”When they shot the mom and killed her that really pissed me off,” he said. “She should have been relocated.”Davis agreed with Capelle, and blames human mistakes, like not properly closing garbage cans, instead of the bears.”We need to train the people more than the bears,” he said.But 17-year Aspen Village resident Chuck Ristine feels that once a bear gets a taste of garbage, there’s no turning back.”They walk around like they own this joint, and they’re clueless [to the consequences],” Ristine said.Resident Eric Auer said the bears were not just becoming fearless, but aggressive. “The mom pounced at me, she tried to attack me,” he said.Ristine said the sows teach their cubs about garbage and the bad behavior carries into a new generation. When that happens, he said they become “pests.””They’re like giant raccoons,” he said. “Sure they’re God’s creatures, but when they start teaching other bears how to tag team Dumpsters, they need to be dealt with.”As of Saturday evening, no bear had been sighted in Aspen Village since the sow was euthanized early last week.
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