Wildlife officer: Bear bit man at Ruedi campsite with exposed food | AspenTimes.com

Wildlife officer: Bear bit man at Ruedi campsite with exposed food

BEAR-PROOFING 101

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends that campers take the following steps:

Never intentionally feed a bear or any other wild animal.

Place all garbage in bear-proof trash containers or in your trunk.

Store food in bear-proof lockers or in your trunk.

Don’t bring anything with an odor into your tent.

Don’t sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking.

Lock RVs and vehicles, especially at night.

If a bear is too close, make it feel unwelcome by yelling and waving your arms.

If it approaches, throw rocks and sticks at it. Do not turn and run.

If it attacks, fight back as aggressively as possible.

Report an aggressive bear or conflicts to CPW immediately

For more information, visit www.cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlifeCampingBearCountry.aspx and for more information about the Dearhamer Campground restrictions, contact the White River National Forest at 970-945-2521.

An adult bear scratched its way into a tent and bit a man on his forearm in a campground on the eastern end of Ruedi Reservoir on Wednesday, according to authorities.

The man was able to whack the bear with his other arm and drive it off, according to a report by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The camper was sleeping with his wife and their 1-year-old child at the Dearhamer Campground when the bear investigated the site at about 3:30 a.m.

The man escaped serious injury. He went by private vehicle to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, where he was treated for two puncture wounds and released, according to the wildlife agency.

The Forest Service temporarily restricted Dearhamer Campground to hard-side campers only. Tents won’t be allowed for an unknown time.

Wildlife officers set a trap for the bear.

Bear-proof food-storage lockers were installed in May at Dearhamer as part of the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District’s ongoing effort to provide them at all campgrounds, according to Martha Moran, recreation manager for the district. It is mandatory to use lockers when provided in the White River National Forest. Violators can be fined.

The report by Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the camping family left food and trash at their campsite. The only item placed in the locker was a bag of potato chips, the wildlife agency said.

The investigating wildlife officer, Matt Yamashita, found that the bear rummaged through coolers of food and freshly caught fish as well as trash.

“It’s another example of less-than-ideal campsite conditions leading to a bear conflict,” Yamashita said.

Perry Will, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the agency decided to share information about the incident to spread the message that people must secure food and trash in bear country. Use the bear-proof food containers when they are available, he said, and put the items in the trunk of a vehicle when containers aren’t available.

There have not been problems with bears previously at Dearhamer, Will said. Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer said this was the first conflict between a bear and a human that she is aware of this year.

“The bear did not return last night because it wasn’t in the trap,” Schroyer said. “The trap will be up there for some time.”

Will said the bear would be killed if it is captured. The agency’s top concern is human safety. The bear has bitten a person and learned to find food in campgrounds, he said, so it will likely continue that behavior.

“That is the really unfortunate aspect of situations like this,” Will said. “People are less than careful with food and trash, and the bear pays the price.”

Bear conflicts were common last year around Crater Lake in the Maroon Bells Scenic Area southwest of Aspen and in the adjacent West Maroon Valley. The Forest Service required backpackers to use bear-proof storage containers last year. A special order allowing the requirement expired this year, but the Forest Service is strongly urging backpackers in that area to use bear-proof containers.

Will said the serviceberry and chokecherry — staples in bears’ diets along with acorns from oak brush — are developing well this summer, so there’s optimism that bear conflicts with humans will be minimal.

Nevertheless, he said the Dearhamer incident showed that people must be vigilant about securing food, trash and any other attractants.

“The message out there is ‘clean camp,’” he said.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife didn’t identify the man who was bitten. Will said it didn’t appear that they were familiar with bear safety practices given the state of their camp. The bear got interested in what it could smell and probably responded to movement inside the tent by biting down, he said.

The camper told wildlife officers that his wife noticed paws on their air mattress right before the bear bit him. The animal jumped over the tent and fled when confronted, the camper told wildlife officers.

“The individual initially thought he had been attacked by a mountain lion; however, the details of the event and evidence at the scene, including a paw print, indicate that this was a bear,” Yamashita said in a statement.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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