Bear chases a pair of asses |

Bear chases a pair of asses

An inquisitive bear has taken a shine to the two resident burros at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

Unfortunately for the donkeys – Chaco and Smoke – the bruin would probably prefer to eat them than play with them.

The tan-colored bear chased the two burros around their enclosure northwest of the post office for what seemed like 10 minutes, according to a witness’s account. The woman said she came across the odd sight while walking the Rio Grande Trail at about 6 a.m. Friday.

“It was the most ridiculous thing,” she said. The bear would chase the burros in earnest, then give up and lope after them. Chaco and Smoke kept the bear running in circles.

Finally, the bruin called off the chase and splashed into the adjacent Jenny Adair Pond, much to the chagrin of the ducks, the witness said.

The odd tale was confirmed by ACES director Tom Cardamone. He didn’t witness the chase, but another employee did.

Cardamone said the burros have occasionally drawn the interest of bears over the years. He was concerned enough to keep one of the burros in a barn after it was born in 1994. Even as adults, the burros face a threat from bears.

“A bear is capable of tiring them and hamstringing them,” he said.

While it may have appeared that the bear was playing with the burros, there was probably method to its madness, Cardamone said. Its strategy was likely to tire the donkeys out, then attack. The test, he said, is whether the burros would kick first or the bear would bite first. Fortunately, it never came to that.

Something must have managed to break the bear’s concentration, anything from a dog’s bark to movement of a person, Cardamone speculated. He figured the curious bruin was probably a young male out to establish new territory. The burros presented something new.

ACES’ burros graze on grass, so the bear wasn’t trying to chow down on feed. Cardamone figured it was just a case of “an inexperienced male trying to figure out what to eat.”

The bear’s curiosity reinforces the reasoning behind the city of Aspen’s new bear ordinance, according to Cardamone. People should use bear-proof trash containers and try to put out garbage the same day as it is picked up. Bird feeders should be brought in at night.

Most importantly, Cardamone said, don’t feed bears. That will get them dependent on handouts or encourage aggressive behavior when food isn’t easily accessible.

“Once you start feeding them, you’re pretty much guaranteeing somebody’s going to have to shoot them,” said Cardamone.

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