The Aspen community will have the opportunity this month to interview state wildlife officials and hear from them about the euthanization of a sow and her four pups last month.
The Colorado Bear Coalition will be hosting a town hall-style meeting on September 27 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m Conference Room by William R. Dunaway in the Pitkin County Library. The event is open to the public and CPW officials will be in attendance, the CPW confirmed Monday. You can register to attend the event at http://www.coloradobearcoalition.org/aspenbearevent.
“Having a mom with four cubs isn’t unusual, but that in itself is pretty unusual,” Brenda Lee, who founded the Colorado Bear Coalition last year, said Monday. “And wow, a mother with four boys and the fact that they killed four boys, that’s just awful.”
Lee, who also founded the Boulder Bear Coalition in 2013, said the meeting will be an open discussion on how the community can better avoid conflicts with bears, which can lead to euthanasia. The goal of the Bear Coalition is to use community input to find ways to reduce bear visits, while also working with state wildlife officials and local governments.
“The focus of the meeting will be to bring the community together and energize the community,” she said, noting that the Boulder Bear Coalition often held town hall meetings after wildlife officials killed a problem bear.
“We brought the community, CPW and city officials together to talk about what happened, and the community was able to hear firsthand from CPW why they killed the bears,” she said. “It eliminated that middle person and maybe details that get lost in translation.”
Lee was motivated to organize the meeting in Aspen after hearing about the five bears that were killed on August 21 after entering a home on Primrose Path the day before. The home is located in unincorporated Pitkin County.
At around 5 p.m. on August 20, the homeowner called authorities about bears entering the home through a ground-level kitchen window. While family members stayed upstairs, the bears damaged the home’s furniture and took food from the refrigerator, according to an incident report from CPW.
The bears have not pressed charges or been in contact with any of the family members, but the homeowner called police because she believed they were in danger, she previously told the Aspen Times.
After local authorities responded, a CPW officer visited the home and set a trap in the driveway to catch the sow, which happened the next morning.
“Four pups accompanying the sow were not in the trap at the time, but were observed returning to the window they had previously entered and attempting to re-enter – suggesting learned behavior and indicates an associated high potential for the bears to enter another inhabited habitation in the future,” the report said. “All four cubs were immobilized, captured and removed by Wildlife Officers.”
Various letters to the editor and social media posts have blamed the CPW and also argued that the boys could at least have been relocated.
“The community often blames CPW because they are the ones killing the bears that come into town. My goal is to work with the CPW, not against the CPW,” Lee said.
Other people said the homeowner said she was responsible for allowing the bears to get into the kitchen because a ground-level window was ajar. According to the CPW report, the door was closed but unlocked.
Black bears aren’t naturally aggressive, but their sheer size alone can make them a threat when they’re hungry and want food, according to the CPW. Male bears can grow up to 600 pounds and females rarely exceed 200 pounds. according to the National Wildlife Federation.
“A bear anxious to get a meal can easily injure anyone who gets in its way,” he said CPW’s website says so. “Every year, bears that are too comfortable around humans must be exterminated.”
As part of Colorado’s two-strike policy, authorities will tag and relocate a black bear that poses a threat or poses a nuisance. For example, if the tagged bear enters a home and is reported again as a nuisance or threat, wildlife officials will attempt to capture and euthanize it. The five bear wildlife officers who were killed had not been tagged, according to the CPW.
Regardless, Lee said the bears shouldn’t have been in the neighborhood at all.
“Bears are in town quite a bit because of the attractants … and the community can do better work to reduce attractants and we can bully the bears more so they don’t want to come into contact with humans.”
The incident report said wildlife officials euthanized the bears after determining “that the behavior of the adult bear and its cubs poses an imminent threat to human safety.” It is Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s duty to manage the state’s wildlife resources for the benefit of residents. Included is the responsibility to protect human health and safety from animals deemed dangerous because of their location or behavior.”
According to a CPW report on bear activity in Colorado released in February, “One concern CPW is aware of from the public is a reluctance to report bear activity because it is believed that doing so would result in the bear being killed. The data shows that of the 14,013 reports wildlife managers received about bears over the past three years, only 2.3 percent resulted in euthanasia.”
Wildlife officers relocated 51 bears and euthanized 66 bears in 2021, significantly fewer than the 118 relocated and 158 euthanized in 2020, the report said.
CPW’s northwest region, which includes Pitkin County, saw 1,834 bear reports in 2021, up from 2020’s 1,642 reports and down from 2019’s 2,146.
Aspen and Pitkin County have both launched “bear-conscious” campaigns in the past, encouraging people to keep trash in their homes and vehicles, not use bird feeders, clean their grills, keep food off their parked cars, lock vehicles, and close and lock ground-level windows and doors in houses.
Also the county and the city have regulations Businesses and homes must use wildlife-resistant garbage and waste containers.
While bear activity in Aspen and the surrounding area goes hand in hand with the territory, Lee said it takes a community movement to reduce human-bear conflict, which can not only lead to policy change but also inspire a collective mindset to give Bruins no reason to to give a visit – whether it’s locking doors, securing trash, or harassing them when they come to visit.
“The community has the power and we are not victims of the government agencies that set the rules and the policies,” she said. “We can actually control what rules and policies are in place, and having a vision is a critical part of the solution.”