Yearling bear has brush with the law |

Yearling bear has brush with the law

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” Aspen police chased off a young bear that found its way into a glassed-in porch of a duplex-condo Tuesday.

It’s not the first time a bear has entered a residence since local bruins emerged from hibernation in recent months, police said. Compounding the situation have been heavy snows, which have delayed the growth of natural food for bears, causing them to search homes and garbage bins for food, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

The most recent encounter came shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday, when Sarah Diamond was alerted by her aging cocker spaniel barking nervously at the back door.

“I just saw this big butt,” Diamond said.

She dialed 911 when she spotted the bear in her glassed-in porch at her home on Pitkin Mesa Drive, a wooded cul-de-sac off Cemetery Lane.

Diamond lives on a second-floor condo bordering forest land, and said it’s common to see bears in her yard or in nearby trees, but that Tuesday was first time a bear had actually paid her residence a visit. She had left the porch door open.

Two teams of Aspen officers responded ” one officer in each team carrying a shotgun loaded with non-lethal beanbags, and another having a high-powered AR15 rifle to bring deadly force if needed.

Instead of using the guns, officers tossed stones at a window to scare the bear off.

Police estimated the bear was a yearling and weighed about 100 pounds. They said they recognized the animal from last year.

“But it’s been nothing like last year,” officer Rick Magnuson said.

Magnuson said he has responded to a handful of bear incidents this year “mostly on night patrol ” but he said the few calls so far this year can’t compare to last summer when nuisance bears consumed hours of police time.

Assistant Chief Linda Consuegra warned homeowners to close doors and lock down garbage.

For DOW officials, last year’s memories are still fresh.

A late frost and summer drought killed off both berry and acorn crops at this time last year, and the animals increasingly hunted human garbage in Aspen.

The DOW has a two-strike policy, and bears that break into homes or turned aggressive to humans had to be euthanized.

In 2007, DOW officers euthanized 13 bears, relocated 24 animals and took four cubs to a rehabilitation center.

“It’s pretty easy to say we’re hoping for a better year than last year,” DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said, “because it would be hard to have a worse year than last year.”

But Hampton is optimistic, saying that even though there have been late frosts just as there were in 2007, heavy snows mean berry bushes simply haven’t sprouted yet.

“There’s plenty of moisture and that’s good news,” Hampton said, adding that he expects berry bushes to pop up in coming weeks and acorns to sprout in mid-summer.

But for now, there is no natural food for bears, and many animals are returning to the same dump bins they fed from in 2007.

“They don’t get a new memory every year when they hibernate,” Hampton said. “They’re going to go where they know to find food, and that’s the closest Dumpster.”

Hampton said DOW officers have received an increasing number of calls and have contacted many homeowners who said they didn’t know the bears were even out yet.

Wildlife officers have already transported one bear from Aspen to the hills above Parachute, and Hampton warned that repeat incidents of bear break-in means the animals must be euthanized.

Protecting the local bear population means keeping bears out of homes and garbage bins, Hampton said.

“We’re counting on people,” Hampton said, urging residents to close and lock doors and windows, and keep garbage in bear-proof containers.