Organizer sets Aspen community meeting with CPW over bear deaths
The Colorado Bear Coalition will host a town hall-style meeting from 5-7 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Pitkin County Library
The Aspen community will get a chance this month to question and hear from state wildlife officials about last month’s euthanizations of a sow and her four cubs.
The Colorado Bear Coalition will host a town hall-style meeting from 5-7 p.m. Sept. 27 at the William R. Dunaway Meeting Room at Pitkin County Library. The event is open to the public and CPW officers will be in attendance, the CPW confirmed Monday. You can register to attend the event at http://www.coloradobearcoalition.org/aspenbearevent.
“A momma with four cubs is not unheard of, but that’s rather unusual that in itself,” said Brenda Lee, who started the Colorado Bear Coalition last year, on Monday. “And wow, a momma with four cubs and the fact that they put down four cubs, it’s just terrible.”
Also the founder the Boulder Bear Coalition in 2013, Lee said the meeting will be a frank discussion about how the community can do better to avoid conflicts with bears, which can lead to euthanizations. The bear coalition’s aim is to use community input to inform ways to reduce bear visits, while also working with state wildlife officials and and local governments.
“The focus of the meeting is going to be on bringing the community together, energizing the community,” she said, noting that the Boulder Bear Coalition would hold town hall meetings oftentimes after wildlife officers put down a problem bear.
“We would bring the community, the CPW and the city officials together to talk about what happened and the community could hear it firsthand from the CPW, why they killed the bears,” she said. “It eliminated that middle-kind-of-person and maybe details that are getting lost in the translation.”
Lee was motivated to organize the Aspen meeting after hearing about the five bears that were put down Aug. 21 after entering a home a on Primrose Path a day earlier. The home is located in unincorporated Pitkin County.
Around 5 p.m. Aug. 20, the homeowner called authorities about bears that had entered the residence through a ground-level kitchen window. While family members stayed upstairs, the bears damaged the home’s furniture and took food from the refrigerator, according to an incident report by CPW.
The bears did not charge or have contact with any of the family members, but the homeowner called law enforcement because she believed they were in danger, she previously told The Aspen Times.
After local authorities responded, a CPW officer visited the home and put a trap in the driveway to catch the sow, which happened the next morning.
“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.”
Various letters to the editor and social media postings have pinned the blame on the CPW and have also argued the cubs at the very least could have been relocated.
“There’s often a lot of blame by the community toward CPW because they are the ones killing the bears coming to town. My goal is working with the CPW, not against CPW,” Lee said.
Other people have said the homeowner was responsible by her own admission that the bears were able enter the kitchen because a ground-level window was ajar. The CPW report said the door was closed but unlocked.
Black bears are not naturally aggressive but their sheer size alone can make them a threat if they are hungry and want food, according to the CPW. Male bears can grow up to 600 pounds and females rarely top 200 pounds, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
“A bear intent on getting a meal can easily injure someone who gets in its way,” the CPW’s website says. “Every year, bears that become too comfortable around people have to be destroyed.”
Under Colorado’s two-strike policy, authorities will tag and relocate a black bear that poses threat or creates a nuisance. If the tagged bear enters a home, for instance, and is reported again as a nuisance or threat, wildlife officers try to trap and euthanize it. The five bears wildlife officers put down had not been tagged, according to the CPW.
Regardless, Lee said the bears should not have been in the neighborhood in the first place.
“Bears are in town quite often because there are attractants … and the community can do a better job at decreasing attractants and we can increase the hazing to bears so they don’t want to associate with people.”
The incident report said wildlife officers euthanized the bears after determining “that the behavior of the adult bear and cubs posed an immediate threat to human safety. 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.”
According to a CPW report on bear activity in Colorado issued in February, “One concern CPW is aware of from the public is a reluctance to report bear activity over of a belief that it will lead to the bear being put down. Data shows that of the 14,013 reports wildlife managers have received on bears in the last three years, only 2.3 percent of those led to euthanization.”
Wildlife officers relocated 51 bears and euthanized 66 bears in 2021, which was considerably down from the 118 relocations and 158 euthanizations in 2020, the report said.
CPW’s northwestern region, which includes Pitkin County, saw 1,834 bear reports in 2021, up from the 1,642 reports made in 2020 and down from the 2,146 in 2019.
Aspen and Pitkin County have launched “bear aware” campaigns in the past encouraging people to secure trash in their homes and vehicles, to not use bird feeders, to clean their barbecue grills, to keep food out of their parked cars, to lock vehicles, and close and lock ground-level windows and doors of houses.
The county and city also have ordinances requiring businesses and residences to use wildlife-resistant trash and refuse containers.
While bear activity in Aspen and surrounding areas comes with the territory, Lee said it will take a community movement to reduce human-bear conflicts, which can result not only in policy changes but inspire a collective mindset to not give bruins a reason to visit — whether it’s locking doors, securing trash, or hazing them when they do visit.
“The community has the power and we are not victims to the government agencies that are setting the rules and the polices,” she said. “We can actually drive what rules and policies there are and it’s a critical piece of the solution to have a vision.”