An Aspen-area homeowner had to undergo surgery after being attacked early Friday morning by a bear that broke into his house through the front door, according to officials with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department.
Wildlife officials were able to locate and kill the bear they believe to be involved on the backside of Aspen Mountain.
A team with tracking dogs located the bear and treed it on the backside of Aspen Mountain around 8 a.m., but the bear then escaped from the tree and found its way into a mine shaft at around 10 a.m., according to CPW officials on scene.
Officers were able to euthanize the bear and are sending DNA from the animal to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife lab for testing fully verify it was the bear that injured the man, CPW area manager Matt Yamashita said Friday.
“Based on the direct and clear trail that tracking dogs quickly followed, along with the physical description of the bear from witnesses, we are certain that we got the offending animal,” Yamashita said. “We never like to have to put an animal down, but the protection of the public is paramount once a bear begins entering homes and responding aggressively toward people.”
The dogs were able to track the scent of the bear down Castle Creek Road toward town, he said. The dogs then tracked the scent up Aspen Mountain, according to another wildlife official.
The bear was located in a mine shaft on the north-facing side of Aspen Mountain, just below Upper Roch Run trail off the Ruthie’s lift.
The bear attacked the homeowner with a paw swipe, which resulted in severe cuts to the victim’s head and neck, CPW officials said in a news release.
“The injuries are pretty significant lacerations to his face, neck and head,” CPW spokesman Randy Hampton told The Aspen Times on Friday morning. “We’re worried about his eye and his ear.”
Hampton said the victim was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital and then transferred by ambulance to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction and is undergoing surgery. He was stable and the injuries are not life threatening, he said. No other updates on his condition were available by Friday afternoon.
Hampton said the incident happened at a house about 2 miles up the Castle Creek Valley.
The bear matched the description of a bear that has been frequenting the Castle Creek neighborhood for several days, according to officials, and it may be the same bear that has been reported for getting into trash in the area for the past couple of years.
Past attempts to haze or trap and relocate the bear have been unsuccessful, they said.
This is the first bear attack in Aspen this year. In 2019, wildlife officers responded to three bear-human attacks in the Aspen area.
This is a developing story that will be updated.