Experts convene amid surging bear encounters |

Experts convene amid surging bear encounters

Eben Harrell

Aspen Times Staff WriterWildlife officials from Pitkin County, Aspen, Snowmass Village and the Colorado Division of Wildlife held a public meeting Friday to discuss what they call the “worst bear problem in 20 years.”The meeting, which drew approximately 20 residents, highlighted the growing tensions over the number of bears in and around residential areas. One participant, who left before he could be identified, advocated killing any bear spotted near homes.”Our parents and grandparents were a lot more sensible than us,” the man said. “They shot all the bears. What are we going to do? Lock ourselves in and barricade the doors? Soon a child is going to be killed and it’s going to be on [the wildlife officials’] heads.”Another woman said she loves the bears around town, and that her grandchildren were flying into Aspen specifically in the hope of running into “Fat Albert,” a large bear that has been breaking into homes in Aspen’s east end.At the meeting DOW officer Kevin Wright presented an educational slide show about black bears, Colorado’s only bruin species. Officials from the upper-valley governments then followed with a description of local wildlife ordinances, which mandate bear-resistant containers in the three jurisdictions.County wildlife biologist Jonathan Lowsky reminded participants that authorities are currently stepping up enforcement, and will shortly be issuing fines ranging from $350 to $1,000 for violations.Officials also dispelled several myths about possible solutions to the bear problem.”Most people ask me, ‘Why don’t you just trap all the bears and move them to the wilderness?'” Wright said. “Well, what most people don’t know is that almost all the time the bears will return and then have to be killed. If I trap a bear, it’s probably not going to survive.”Lowsky also added that many plastic trash containers marketed as bear-proof are ineffective. Properly latched metal containers are the only sure way to keep bears out of trash. “The plastic containers are barely resistant, no pun intended,” Lowsky said.Officials warned that the bear problem will likely worsen in the coming weeks, as the animals start to gorge before hibernation.

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