Snowmass police accidentally injure bear cub, have to put it down |

Snowmass police accidentally injure bear cub, have to put it down

A bear runs through the Snowmass Mall on June 11, 2019. An armed Snowmass police officer followed behind to ensure the bear made it back to the trees safely.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times file photo

Snowmass police were forced to put down a young bear over the weekend after severely injuring it with a less-than-lethal weapon.

Police Chief Brian Olson said Tuesday that an officer was called to the Snowmass Mall around 10 p.m. Friday after a bear and her two cubs got into a delivery of Doritos and potato chips left near a stairwell.

The officer tried to haze the bears from the top of the stairs, striking the mother on the backside with less-than-lethal beanbag ammunition deployed from a shotgun, Olson said.

The mother took off running but the cubs remained, he said. When the officer attempted to thump the backside of one of the cubs, Olson continued, it turned and the beanbag hit and penetrated its stomach area, causing a serious wound.

“The officer was by themselves so they called in more staff and tracked the cub immediately to safely put it down,” Olson said. “It was heavy-hearted. … Less-than-lethal weapons have the potential to turn lethal if not applied to perfection, and this is an example of that.”

Olson said most Snowmass police officers are well-accustomed to dealing with village area bears, and the department hasn’t had to put down a bear in roughly a decade.

This particular bear family had not posed problems for officers, foraging mainly on crabapple trees around the village. Olson said he believes police successfully deployed at least 100 beanbags this year to scoot bears out of potential conflict areas over the summer and fall months.

“This summer was no different than years past; we fought long and hard to keep bears out of trouble,” Olson said. “It’s a real bummer this particular situation ended the way it did.”

Olson said Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been notified of the incident.

On top of acknowledging the incident as something the police department should learn from, Olson also encouraged the public to do its part in responsibly managing food and trash so bears aren’t enticed to stray from their natural food sources.

The Snowmass Police Department is investigating where the undelivered chips left on the mall came from, and could issue a fine or ticket as a result.

“You can’t leave food out like that, and if you see something, say something,” Olson said, referring to people who may have walked past the undelivered food. “I think we could do a better job as a community to pay attention to small things like that.”