Bear’s Beaver Creek death remains a mystery; cubs’ bellies full of store-bought cherries
August 17, 2017
BEAVER CREEK — Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials aren’t sure what killed a mother bear in Beaver Creek and might never learn unless they get more information.
“At this point, we do not know what killed this bear,” said District Wildlife Manager Bill Andree, of Vail. “We are actively investigating, but unless someone comes forward with information, we may never know.”
The mother bear was found dead early in the morning on June 30 in a Beaver Creek neighborhood.
A toxicology test performed by an independent laboratory revealed only traces of toxicants in its system. According to officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Wildlife Health Lab, similar levels are found in many bears and are not typically considered sufficient to cause death.
The morning of the incident, residents of Beaver Creek reported they heard gunshots in the vicinity where the bear died; however, after conducting a physical examination of the carcass within hours after it was discovered, wildlife officers did not find any evidence of physical trauma, including bullet wounds.
“Even if it seems like a minor detail, we ask that you call authorities as soon as possible,” Andree said. “If someone knows how the bear died, we strongly advise coming forward and telling us what happened.”
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DON’T FEED THE BEARS
The mother bear had three cubs with her when she died. Two cubs captured near the dead mother initially appeared healthy. However, both cubs became visibly sick and lethargic the following day. Wildlife rehabilitators treated both cubs, and they survived. A third cub captured days later appeared healthy when transported to the rehabilitation center.
“The two cubs we found with the mother had their bellies full of store-bought cherries,” Andree said. “That’s an indication that someone may have been intentionally feeding them.”
When they are able to survive on their own, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will return the cubs to the wild, but wildlife officers say their chance of long-term survival is significantly diminished by having become accustomed to human food.
Andree said that before the bear died, Beaver Creek residents reported seeing her and her three cubs in the area, rummaging through trash cans and finding meals from human-provided sources.
“There are many reasons to prevent bears from finding food in residential areas,” he said. “Any time a bear becomes accustomed to human-provided food, that bear will usually die sooner than later, one way or another.”
BE BEAR AWARE
Because bears are feeding almost constantly as they prepare for winter, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials warn the possibility of a visit from a hungry bear is increasing in many areas of Colorado.
“Teaching a bear that it is safe around humans is typically a death sentence for the bear, and it’s often Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers that have to carry out the execution to protect human health and safety,” Andree said. “They are not pets. The best thing to teach a bear is to avoid humans, not to expect a handout.”
To avoid bear conflicts, Colorado Parks and Wildlife strongly encourages people to follow the suggestions found at the agency’s website.
Anyone with information about the death of the bear can call Operation Game Thief anonymously at 877-265-6648, or contact the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Glenwood Springs office at 970-947-2920. A $500 reward is available from Operation Game Thief for information that leads to a citation or arrest.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.