Bear’s presence means camping restrictions at Weller
Until further notice, only hard-sided camping will be allowed at Weller Campground east of Aspen because a bear has been hanging around the area, a state official said Tuesday.
The male bear first broke in to a van parked at the campground June 7 or 8 and was able to obtain food, said Perry Will, Colorado Parks and Wildlife area supervisor for the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys. Since then, he’s been hanging around the campground, he said.
A camper saw the bear Sunday and fired a shotgun over the animal’s head and he ran away, Will said. The bear also has been seen another time nearby the campground, he said.
However, Will said he has no plans yet to trap, move or kill the bear because he has not been aggressive or dangerous yet.
“My philosophy is if a bear can’t be 7 miles from Aspen, where can it be?” Will said. “If it exhibits dangerous behavior, we’ll deal with it.”
He said he hopes the soft-sided camping ban — tents, for example, are not allowed — will eventually discourage the bear from returning to Weller and it can be opened again for all types of camping.
This summer, the U.S. Forest Service has instituted an order for the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness area requiring all food to be stored in bear-proof containers, said Lynn Lockwood, acting public affairs spokeswoman for the White River National Forest.
That means using secure containers for backpacking and metal lockers installed at established campgrounds, Lockwood and Will said.
The Forest Service’s law enforcement officer recently wrote six or seven tickets to people on Independence Pass for food storage violations, Will said.
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The amount of fees that 11 Colorado ski areas on the White River National Forest paid for use of public lands in their operations climbed back last season compared to the year before.