With food scarce, brace for possible bear invasion later this summer
CPW official: We’ll probably see bears come down into town this month
While the number of bears in Aspen has been manageable so far this summer, a lack of natural food sources could change that as fall approaches, an area wildlife official said.
The below average snowpack and runoff in the spring and little rain in the early summer meant berries that should be producing about now, as well as late summer and fall foods such as acorns, grasses and oak, did not get the early proper moisture and are not providing food, said Matt Yamashita, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Glenwood Springs.
“A lot of the natural food sources aren’t doing what we’d hoped they’d do,” he said. “The late rains might be too little, too late.”
Acorns and some berries appear plentiful in river corridors in the Roaring Fork Valley and in irrigated areas where humans live, he said. But that poses problems.
“Those are areas where we don’t want them,” Yamashita said.
In years without adequate natural food, bears begin to come down from the hills and into town in mid-to-late August in search of food. That can cause problematic interactions with humans, including bears breaking into homes and cars and parking themselves in large pine trees in the downtown core area.
Yamashita said residents should brace themselves for that to happen this year.
“We’ll probably see bears come down into town this month,” he said.
So far, CPW has had to euthanize two bears in the Upper Roaring Fork Valley this summer — one about two weeks ago and one early in the summer, said Kurtis Tesch, CPW’s district wildlife manager for the Aspen-Snowmass area. Both bears had been breaking in to houses, he said.
Also, an approximately 2-year-old male bear was struck and killed by a car in the downvalley lanes of Highway 82 at night about two weeks ago just west of the roundabout, Tesch said. A bear cub was killed by a car about 100 yards east of that spot the week before, he said.
No bear-related injuries to humans have been reported this summer, Tesch said.
Aspen Police have logged 78 bear-related calls since April, said Lara Xaiz, a community resource officer with the Aspen Police Department. Those include a bear that ripped a window open at a residence on McSkimming Road and entered the home in late July, though bear activity in Aspen has been fairly quiet so far, she said.
Xaiz gave credit to restaurants and other businesses in the downtown core for doing a better job of locking down trash and keeping it from hungry bears. The problem has improved in Aspen’s West End as well, where Xaiz says she will often see trash cans knocked over but still intact and sealed.
“I feel like restaurants and community members have really done their part,” she said.
Yamashita also gave credit to Upper Roaring Fork Valley residents becoming more aware of behaviors that attract bears, which can lead to the animals being euthanized.
“Humans are starting to do their part,” he said. “There’s a lot of community-driven messaging out there.”
Most of the bear activity so far has been in the West End on both sides of Main Street, Xaiz said. Tesch said usual hot spots like Mountain Valley have not seen a concentration of bear incidents yet, and that bear activity has been spread out this summer.
The Aspen Ambulance District seeks a property-tax increase to keep up its level of service, and the Pitkin County commissioners showed initial willingness this week to put the question on the Nov. 8 ballot.
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