Bear on the prowl kills two goats | AspenTimes.com

Bear on the prowl kills two goats

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A bear killed two domesticated goats near Conundrum Creek in the past week, according to Kevin Wright, Aspen district wildlife officer for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

“It’s unusual for a bear to do something like that,” he said. “It’s unusual, but it also doesn’t surprise me.”

Wright said the bite marks on the goats indicated they were killed by a bear in an area that is “prime bear habitat.” He said the wildlife division has problems in the Conundrum Creek area every year with bears.

Wildlife officials are warning that bears are active this summer in the Roaring Fork Valley and that residents should take all necessary precautions against unwanted home invasions.

So far this summer, Wright said there have been conflicts with bears getting into homes on Red Mountain and in Starwood, as well as in the Old Snowmass area and along Snowmass Creek. Bears have also lumbered into homes just east of Aspen.

The break-ins don’t necessarily indicate that bears are overwhelmingly hungry this summer. Wright said so far there is a “tremendous crop” of service berries in the woods, a slightly smaller crop of chokecherries beginning to ripen, and even some small acorns that have been more scarce during the past three years.

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The acorn and berry crops were affected in past years from late-spring/ early-summer freezing patterns. While this year’s natural food supply for bears was affected by the drought, not all of the effects of the dry weather are known so far.

Although they may not be hungry due to a food shortage, many bears who learned to hunt for food in trash bins and homes may repeat their behavior this summer, Wright said.

“It is imperative that people be careful – they tend to disregard this kind of advice until something happens,” he said. “But it’s important that people keep lower level windows and doors closed and locked.”

Screens on windows offer no resistance to bears, he said, and the bruins will enter a home if a reachable window is left open. Wright has worked with residents of Starwood to deal with one bruin who was smashing through closed windows and doors, but he said such incidents are rare.

“Bears are very reluctant to turn their power on people. As far as we know, no one has ever been bitten or attacked by a bear in this valley,” he said. “If you encounter a bear, use common sense and don’t run. Look from a distance, but if you have to scare a bear away, throw a rock, squirt water in its face, or do something to make the bear feel uncomfortable.”

Besides closing and locking lower level windows and doors, Wright also suggested taking down bird feeders and not feeding pets outside. He said you can also spray a bear in the face with pepper spray, but only if you’re sure of the wind direction before the spray winds up in your own face.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]