Suspect bear that bit hiker on trail near Aspen has been located, killed |

Suspect bear that bit hiker on trail near Aspen has been located, killed

A trail closure sign blocks the lower Hunter Creek Valley trail to hikers Monday afternoon after an unprovoked bear attack was reported earlier in the day. Crews with tracking dogs were dispatched to locate the suspect bear.
Jeremy Wallace / The Aspen Times

Wildlife officials tracked and killed a bear Thursday in Aspen they suspect is the one that bit a hiker on the leg earlier this week on the Hunter Creek Trail.

DNA samples taken from the hiker’s wounds and from the bear have been sent to a lab in Wyoming to try to confirm if it is the same bear. Those results should be back within a week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officer Matt Yamashita said Thursday afternoon.

“We truly believe right now based on everything we know, this is the right bear,” he said.

He said the DNA tests don’t always come back with a 100% positive confirmation that it was the right animal because some of the samples can be degraded over time. However, he said it can provide them with more information whether or not it was the right bear, “but it’s not always 100% conclusive.”

Officers got a report that the bear had been seen at the trailhead about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, according to a news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Yamashita said they shot the bear once with a live round near the trailhead, but it was not fatal and the bear took off. They tracked it with hound dogs and shot the bear a second time near Highway 82 and McSkimming Road on the east side of Aspen at about 1 p.m.

“The initial shot didn’t put it down immediately, and they had to pursue it,” he said. “The pursuit resulted in the bear and dogs going into town, then they used live rounds again to put it down.”

A woman in her mid-50s from Washington was hiking Monday morning with her husband on Hunter Creek Trail when they saw the bear walking toward them, according to the CPW report. The woman said they tried to give the bear space and stepped off the trail.

As the bear walked by, she told officers it suddenly turned, charged and bit her on the thigh before it ran off. She was taken to the hospital with two puncture wounds to the leg.

“Color, size and all the information they provided us on the animal they encountered, that’s what we used in order to move forward with our investigation and try to determine which is the right bear,” Yamashita said Thursday. “We know, just like everybody, that Aspen has more than one bear, so we’re going based off what we know.

“The second part of that is proximity to the location where the incident occurred. This bear, when it was first reported to us (Thursday) morning, was within 100 yards of where the initial incident occurred. It returned to the exact same location.”

The bear carcass will be taken to the CPW’s Wildlife Health Laboratory for a full necropsy.

Because the animal injured a human, it has to be euthanized as part of CPW’s policy to protect human health and safety.

“We always want people to let us know, injuries or not, if they have physical contact with a bear,” Yamashita said. “Because this resulted in injury and the injuries were consistent with the story and were consistent with a bear, that’s where our hands were bound and we had to go straight to abiding by policy, which dictates we euthanize that animal.”

After Monday’s attack, officials first tried to track the bear with dog teams, but were not successful. They set out two traps in the Hunter Creek area.

Those traps have been removed and CPW is not pursuing any other animals at this time, Yamashita said. They do want the public to contact the agency if they see any similar bear behavior in the area.

“In situations like this, people always ask ‘did they do the right thing or were they at fault, could they have done something different?’ It’s hard to say,” he said. “None of us was that person, that victim. It’s hard to armchair quarterback this one and say what they did was right or wrong.”