One more strike and he’s out
August 3, 2006
The bear known as “Red 68” was recently dropped in a remote forested area about 40 miles west of Glenwood Springs. It’s prime bear habitat, according to Division of Wildlife manager Kevin Wright. “There are no immediate residences,” he said, rife with “aspen, chokecherries and natural foods.”But Red 68 didn’t stay for long. The bear seems bound to return to Aspen’s prestigious Red Mountain neighborhood, where it recently got into trouble. On July 23, the hungry bruin broke a window at Deb Adams-Welles’ home on Herron Hollow, climbed in and raided her kitchen.Wright and fellow wildlife manager John Groves were called to capture the bruin, which had already broken into other nearby homes.With Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies keeping an eye out and their weapons drawn, Wright and Groves found the bear hunkered under a tall spruce. Armed with a rifle and tranquilizer gun, Wright quietly moved in through the bushes, weeds and scrub oak. The bear noticed Wright and started climbing the tree. Wright pulled the trigger and hit the animal in the buttocks with a dart. It swiftly scampered up 30 feet and settled in on some branches.As the tranquilizer kicked in, the bear grew sleepy and eventually fell to the ground, cracking tree limbs as it dropped and barely missing an old tree trunk when it landed.
Wright and Groves moved in to check on the bear’s condition. As if dreaming of some tasty dish, the bear licked its forearm as Wright injected a booster shot of tranquilizer. The officers called volunteer firefighters to help move the 360-pound animal.Wright and Aspen community safety officer Melissa Crane rolled the bear onto a tarp, but the tarp tore down the middle when the officers, aided by volunteer firefighters, tried to move the heavy load. Someone fetched a rescue litter and the beast was moved to a clearing.Wright and Groves tagged the bear’s ear with number “Red 68″ and gave it some eye drops. The bear also received a shot of the antibiotic Oxytet to prevent infection in its paw, where officers removed a wood screw. Groves took notes as Wright determined the bear’s sex, approximate age and temperature.”He’s a very healthy, beautiful black bear with unique coloration,” Wright says. “Other than the screw we removed from his paw, he is in great shape.”
The sleeping bear was moved to a portable cage and cooled down with a garden hose. Later, at the DOW office in Glenwood Springs, Red 68 received a radio collar with GPS tracking and an identification chip.The bear was relocated to western Garfield County, but within days began moving toward Aspen.”They’re intelligent and versatile creatures,” Wright says, “like migratory birds, they have an innate way of coming back.”Wright has received reports Red 68 had broken into several homes. As of Aug. 3, the bear had passed through Spring Valley near Carbondale, and he is believed to have entered a residence at Phillips Trailer Park in Snowmass Canyon.”I expect him to be back at Red Mountain in a day or two,” Wright said Thursday morning. “It’s (DOW) policy that if we catch him a second time, we’ll have to euthanize him. Right now, I’m not very optimistic.”