Bears pulled from tree in downtown Aspen’s pedestrian mall |

Bears pulled from tree in downtown Aspen’s pedestrian mall

David Krause and Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

Those were not big cats plucked out of a tree Thursday afternoon by the Aspen fire department.

A mother bear and two cubs that took up residence this week in a tree on an Aspen pedestrian mall were evicted when Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials tranquilized the mother and then two cubs. The groggy mother slowly slid down the tree trunk and into a tarp held by law enforcement officials.

Once she was wrapped up and put in a cage, fire officials used a cherry-picker basket to get to the sedated cubs.

When the three were safely on the ground, the crowd of people who gathered behind the caution tape cheered the rescue.

The mama bear and her two cubs appeared healthy and will be driven “way west of here,” said Perry Will, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “They’ll be very close to the Utah border in very good habitat.”

The bears were in Aspen probably for the crab apples, Will said, because food in the mountains is scarce this year.

“They’re not bad bears,” Will said. “They just found a spot that was bad.”

The cubs were likely born in February in the den, while the mother is probably 5 or 6 years old.

Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor said he thinks it was the same mother and two cubs who were hanging around the courthouse last week.

Earlier Thursday, police said the situation “got pretty heated” Wednesday when the bears tried to leave the tree among a large group of onlookers.

The police department had yellow caution tape around much of the center of the Hyman Avenue mall Thursday and at about 2:30 p.m. decided to bring the bears out of the tree.

Wednesday night too many people were getting too close when the bears came out of the tree and caused a tense situation, officials said.

“It got pretty heated,” Aspen Police Sgt. Rob Fabrocini said. “They came down into a fairly large crowd of photo-takers and those that insisted on trying to get close enough to take selfies.”

He said when the bears tried to run away, people were chasing them to get video. The cubs and mother bear were separated, and the mother bear returned agitated and making loud noises. Police worked to move back the gawkers. “People were still walking right up to her, even when it was clear she was agitated and growling as people got close,” Fabrocini said.

During Thursday’s removal, the entire block-long mall was closed down for about an hour.

There have been a large number of bear-related reports this summer, according to Aspen police.

“Every single day we’re getting lots and lots of bear calls,” Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said last week.

Kurtis Tesch, wildlife manager in the Aspen area for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the bears’ food sources are minimal because the acorn crop this year froze and berries are scarce. As of last week, Tecsch said they had euthanized about nine bears and relocated many others.

“I’m glad it looks like there will be a happy ending for them,” Aspen Police Officer Ryan Turner said after Thursday’s relocation.