Officer Martin has seen his share of bears over 30 years in Aspen |

Officer Martin has seen his share of bears over 30 years in Aspen

Black bears standing over a pile of corn in an Aspen neighborhood in summer 2022. The occupants said they were trying to feed ... birds.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Courtesy photo

Charlie Martin, a three-decade veteran of the Aspen Police Department, recalled his first bear call in the summer of 1996.

Martin, who is now off the streets after a tenure as a community safety officer, had been at the department for six years when the call came in.

“I remember sitting in the Old Courthouse basement at 506 E Main St. The call came in with my badge number. It was a report of a bear breaking in,” he said. “I looked at one of my officers and told him to run over to the library and get a book on bears.” 

Times have certainly changed with resources and access.

“As bear calls increased over the years, I recall Rick Magnuson, now investigations sergeant, and Brian Flynn, who worked in environmental health, writing up the first bear municipal ordinance for the city of Aspen in 1999,” said Martin.

He couldn’t remember the exact years off-hand, but there were some really bad bear ones, he said. 

One standout bear encounter happened in the height of summer tourism season on a July afternoon.

“There was this giant black bear at 300 South Mill next to the popcorn wagon, and the mall was full of tourists,” said Martin. “We needed to move him along. We wanted to direct him through Wagner Park up to Aspen Mountain. We use a less-lethal bean bag round in the shot gun to haze bears. We popped off a round or two, he looked back, and he wasn’t moving along. He looked at us like, ‘That’s all you got?'”

Martin also remembered a curious black bear that locked itself into a car. The officer had to use a lockout kit to let the animal out.