Bears get ticket out of town | AspenTimes.com

Bears get ticket out of town

Tim Mutrie

State wildlife officials have decided they will attempt to relocate two yearling black bears that have frequented the trash caches in Aspen’s West End this summer.

But aside from the two yearlings, which a local wildlife officer believes “grew up in Aspen,” bears have not created nearly the number of problems in the upper Roaring Fork Valley this summer that they did last year.

Last summer, authorities had to destroy five “problem” bears in Snowmass Village, after three or four years without killing any troublesome bruins, according to Randy Cote, Aspen district wildlife manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Snowmass Village, a hot spot for bear problems last summer, has not had any problems of note so far this year, Cote said.

“Snowmass Village hasn’t had any bears that have gotten into anything,” Cote said. “They’ve seen a few bears wander through town, but as for getting into trash, that hasn’t happened. Now that [Snowmass Village Police] have the ability to write tickets, people are finally realizing, `Hey, this thing’s for real,’ and they’re minding their trash … all the hard work is paying off.”

Snowmass Village tightened restrictions on trash containers and other attractions for bears after the distressing toll last year’s troubles took on the bear population. Aspen, too, has enacted new, stiffer trash-containment laws.

Another reason the bruins are doing less foraging in town this year, Cote said, is plentiful feed in the wild – service berries, choke cherries, acorns and such.

Cote said the DOW will attempt to relocate the two problem yearling cubs within two weeks.

“I’m waiting for the berry and acorn crops to be readily available wherever I put them,” Cote said, “so they will like their new habitat and be sustained there. But I wholeheartedly suspect that they will be back, and we’ll know it,” he added.

While relocating bears sounds like the best and most humane way to deal with problem animals, once bears have made a habit of feeding on trash, they often return to their old ways. Nonetheless, the yearlings stand their best chance in a new, wild habitat, Cote said.

“Once an adult bear becomes accustomed to behaviors, you might as well put him down because they’re going to have the same problems wherever they are,” Cote said. “Yearlings, though, can adapt to new habitats.

“I hate to move the bears and make people think the problem is gone, because it isn’t,” Cote said. “I’d like to see some more progress made in Aspen with the trash ordinance.”

Local authorities are contacting violators of the new trash laws and the bear-proof dumpster companies are getting a lot of orders from Aspen, according to Cote. “Many people are taking more care with their trash than they used to. It’ll work, it’s just a matter of everybody getting in line.

“It’s going to take people a lot of training,” Cote continued. “People have been doing what they’re doing for a long time, and it takes as long to change that behavior – people are probably harder to train than dogs.”

Cote said aside from the two yearlings in Aspen, a big adult bear has been hanging out between Mountain Valley east of Aspen and Willoughby Way at the base of Red Mountain, but it has not caused many problems yet. Bears have also created minor problems in Aspen Village and around Snowmass Creek and Lower River Road, he said.

“If we had grizzlies around here, people would definitely live differently,” Cote mused.


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