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Conflicting accounts over how bears entered Aspen-area home

Wildlife officers put down the five bears Aug. 21 after reporting to the Aspen home the bears entered a day earlier

This image shows two bear cubs by the very trap where their mom was captured.
Courtesy photo

Wildlife officers recently euthanized a sow and her four cubs partly out of concern that they had entered an Aspen-area home through a closed, unlocked window, according to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife report of the incident. The officers’ determination contradicts the homeowner’s statement to The Aspen Times that the bears accessed the residence through a ground-level window roughly 12 inches ajar.

“Based on the lack of attractants and closed, ground-level doors and windows, residents had taken reasonable precautions to avoid conflicts with bears and should have an associated expectation of safety within their residence,” the report said.

CPW’s Rachael Gonzales, public information officer for the northwest region, said the reporting party, who also was the homeowner, said the kitchen window was closed when the bears entered the house.



“The responding officer interviewed the reporting party who stated the bears had entered through a closed, unlocked window,” she said in an email to the Times.

The homeowner, however, told the Times last week the window was open.




“The window was actually ajar a tiny bit for some fresh air,” said the homeowner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The bear pulled open the window, ripped the screen out and stepped on chairs and broke a high chair and completely demolished the fridge.”

The bears squeezed their way through the open window and “got through a shockingly small space,” said the homeowner.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s report of the incident, obtained by The Aspen Times on Tuesday through an open-records request, said an investigation by wildlife officers “indicated that the bears had entered the house through a closed, unlocked ground level kitchen window” in the early morning hours of Aug. 20.

CPW recommends that ground-level doors and windows be locked and closed at night during the summer and fall black-bear seasons, so the animals aren’t attracted by scents and don’t have easy access to a residence, either. Though highly discouraged, leaving open a ground-level window or door is not illegal.

Whether the bears entered the home through a closed or partially-open window did factor into wildlife officers’ call to euthanize the cubs, Gonzales said.

“No, this would not have changed wildlife officers’ decisions to euthanize the cubs,” her email said. “The cubs were exposed to and demonstrated learned behavior with a high potential for the cubs to enter another occupied dwelling in the future making them a threat to health and human safety.”

Wildlife officers put down the five bears Aug. 21 after reporting to the Aspen home the bears entered a day earlier. The homeowner said she called authorities around 5 a.m. Aug. 20 out of fear for the safety of her visiting daughter, son in-law and their children, all of who were under 5 years old.

“Per statements by residents of the house, there were three adults and three children inside of the house during the incident,” the report said. “None were injured and were able to find safety by locking themselves in a room on a different level of the house.”

The bears damaged the home’s furniture and also took food from the refrigerator, according to the report.

“Adult bear tracks and several sets of cub tracks were identified in the house,” the report said. “Based on the amount of tracks and scat, it was determined that the bears had spent a significant amount of time loitering within the residence before leaving.”

Officers set up a trap in front of the house the same day of their initial visit. The next day, the home’s residents informed CPW officials that the sow had been trapped and the cubs remained at-large, prompting a wildlife officer to return to the home.

“Four cubs accompanying the sow were not in the trap at the time but were observed returning to the window they previously entered, attempting to regain entry — indicating a learned behavior and an associated high potential for the bears to enter another occupied dwelling in the future,” the report said. “All four cubs were immobilized, captured and removed by Wildlife Officers.”

The bears had not been tagged, Gonzales previously told the Times. Under Colorado’s two-strike policy, authorities will tag and relocate a black bear that has created a nuisance by entering a home or vehicle, for example. If the same bear is reported again as a nuisance, wildlife officers put it down. 

Wildlife officials euthanized the momma bear and her four cubs after determining “that the behavior of the adult bear and cubs posed an immediate threat to human safety,” the report said. “It is the duty of Colorado Parks and Wildlife to manage the wildlife resource of the state for the benefit of residents. Included is the responsibility to protect human health and safety from animals that are determined to be dangerous based on location or behavior.”

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

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