Bear cub takes liking to AABC |

Bear cub takes liking to AABC

Tim Mutrie

A yearling black bear that has been feeding on food left in unsecured dumpsters at the Aspen-Airport Business Center for several weeks ventured into a business yesterday.

The bear knocked over some trash containers before being shooed away.

The incident is the latest among a string of reports stemming from the 50-pound cub’s rampant feeding activities around the AABC, and the corresponding efforts by local wildlife officials to educate people living and working there.

Authorities hope to keep people away from the cub, for fear that human contact will diminish the bear’s wild instincts, and to get people and businesses to take responsibility for the trash and food being consumed by the bear.

“It’s a trash problem, a people problem – I don’t think it’s a problem bear,” said Kevin Wright, local wildlife manager for the state Department of Wildlife. “If the food source wasn’t there – including people feeding the bear, which is illegal – it would simply go away to forage for natural foods.”

ReRe Baker, animal safety officer with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, lamented that “a fed bear is a dead bear,” as the saying goes.

Baker and Wright recently mailed letters to AABC business owners and residents, urging them to take whatever steps necessary to make trash, dog food, birdseed and feeders, grills and other edible (or sniffable) items inaccessible to the cub, and inevitably, other bears in the future. That includes, Wright noted, rolling up windows on cars with food inside and closing first-floor windows and doors to keep bears from entering buildings.

The cub was first reported at the AABC nearly three weeks ago, and Baker believes it has remained in the area ever since, feeding heavily in unsecured dumpsters. Wright speculated that the yearling – which would typically stay with its mother for another year – was either shunned by his mother or his mother was killed somehow.

“The bear is not aggressive, but the more people hang around it, the more it’s going to start losing its fear of people, and we don’t want that to happen,” Wright said. “We don’t want the bear to lose its wildness. I don’t want the bear hurt, or anyone else hurt, because as he grows – and he’ll grow fast and get big – he may get territorial about the dumpsters.”

The city of Aspen and Snowmass Village now have ordinances that require all dumpsters to be “bear proof.” Pitkin County however, where the AABC is located, has no such ordinance (though one is in the works), so authorities have no legal recourse to cite individuals or businesses for open dumpsters.

Baker singled out Louis Swiss Bakery for praise, noting the business recently installed bear-proof dumpsters in response to the problem. But other businesses have not been as cooperative, she said.

“Everybody thinks I can just whisk this bear away, but it’s not that easy,” Wright said. “I’m not going to trap this bear until the food source problem is taken care of. Trapping is a last resort for us, and it’s not always an effective solution either.”

Under Colorado’s two-strike policy, problem bears are to be destroyed after their second negative contact with humans. If Wright traps and relocates the cub, it will count as the yearling’s first strike. Five bears were put to death in the upper Roaring Fork Valley two summers ago by DOW officials.

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