Wildlife officials: Bear killed in Aspen was the one that bit hiker on Hunter Creek Trail

Necropsy shows bear was living on bird seed; CPW wants people to remove feeders

A trail closure sign blocks the lower Hunter Creek Valley trail to hikers Monday afternoon after an unprovoked bear attack was reported earlier in the day. Crews with tracking dogs were dispatched to locate the suspect bear.
Jeremy Wallace / The Aspen Times

The bear killed Friday by state wildlife officers was confirmed Wednesday as the same bear that bit a woman Memorial Day on the Hunter Creek Trail, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The DNA sample taken from the woman who was bitten matched DNA taken from the bear after it was killed, said a CPW news release.

“In addition, preliminary results from the necropsy performed on the bear … revealed the stomach contents of the 3- to 4-year-old, 224-pound male bear consisted almost entirely of birdseed,” the release states.

Wildlife officers believe “it is very likely the bear’s aggressive behavior was due to having lost its natural fear of people as it fed on backyard bird feeders,” according to CPW.

Wildlife officers continually warn people to take down bird feeders, secure trash and lock first-floor windows so as not to attract bears, CPW Officer Matt Yamashita said.

“It’s time for the public to self-assess and realize that until they take this seriously, people will remain in danger and bears will continue to be put down,” Yamashita said in the release.

The woman who was attacked was hiking on the Hunter Creek Trail about 10 minutes from the Hunter Creek Apartments when she and her husband encountered the bear coming down the trail, Kurits Tesch, CPW’s local wildlife officer, has said. The couple backtracked a bit and stepped off the trail, but the bear bit the woman on her thigh as it passed, then ran away.

The attack was “seemingly” out of the blue, he said.

Bears that are aggressive toward humans are hunted down and killed as a matter of public policy.

In an echo of his colleague’s comments, Tesch blamed area residents for the latest bear’s death.

“We tell people not to put (bird seed) out,” he said. “This is the result of not listening to us.

“We all like seeing the bears around, and if you want to keep seeing them, don’t (feed the birds).”

The city of Aspen and Pitkin County discourage people from putting out bird feeders between April 15 and Nov. 15.

If residents insist on feeding birds, the feeder must be suspended on a cable high enough to keep it away from bears and other wildlife and far enough away from trees or other structures a bear can climb to get to it, said Ginna Gordon, Aspen police community resource officer. In addition, residents must clean up the birdseed detritus that collects under the feeder, she said.

ReRe Baker, Pitkin County’s animal safety director, said she also encourages people to bring birdseed feeders and hummingbird feeders inside at night.

However, all three law enforcement officers agreed that not feeding the bears in Aspen and Pitkin County during the summer is, by far, the best strategy.

“Birds have ample food in the summer and (feeders do) attract other wildlife,” Gordon said.

The city has received a few more bear calls so far this year than this time last year, she said.

In the county, bear calls have been coming in too, including one a few days ago in which a bear killed an old, deaf dog that could not hear its owner calling it back, Baker said.

Snowmass police shooed a young bear out of the Mall on Wednesday afternoon, and Police Chief Brian Olson said they’ve had activity this spring from about a half-dozen bear, which they are monitoring.

Tesch said the bear situation was quiet until recently.

“It’s only in the last week or two really when it’s ramped up,” he said.

Still, Tesch said he’s not worried about the bears food sources, including service berries, choke cherries and acorns, which are all blooming and looking good, he said. This time of year, bears mainly eat grass and grub until other food sources ripen, he said.

Two years ago, a late spring freeze destroyed the acorn crop — a major fall food source for bears — forcing Aspen into a “summer of bears.” Bears were everywhere in town late that summer, and frequently breaking into cars and homes and putting on a spectacle for tourists.


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