Aspen area police chief says bear break-ins are for ice cream; one resident punches bear in the face
The Aspen Times
Young bears with a serious sweet tooth have broken into a half-dozen homes in Snowmass Village in the past month, an official said Wednesday.
“They’re going after ice cream,” said Snowmass Village Police Chief Brian Olson. “They’re predominantly going after sweets.”
Snowmass Village, however, is not alone in its bear problems.
Bears have broken into seven homes and at least two cars in the city of Aspen just this month, said Ginna Gordon, a community service officer with the Aspen Police Department. The boyfriend of one resident even punched a bear in the face Tuesday that tried to stick its head through a window screen of a home on Park Avenue, she said.
And in unincorporated Pitkin County, bears have broken into nine homes in July, said ReRe Baker, wildlife officer with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
Officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife have killed two problem bears in the area so far this summer, including one caught Tuesday in the Snowmass Creek area, said Kurtis Tesch, CPW’s wildlife officer in the Roaring Fork Valley.
CPW officials trapped and killed another bear who bit a hiker on the Hunter Creek Trail on Memorial Day.
“I would say there’s increased activity from last year,” Tesch said.
He said he’s not sure why that might be but speculated that the large snowpack might be covering some of the grubs bears usually eat this time of year. In addition, the bears might have gone into hibernation hungry and might have been slower to come out of hibernation because of the cool spring weather and snow.
However, unlike two years ago when a late spring freeze destroyed much of the bear’s fall food sources of berries and acorns, this fall’s food crop is coming along normally, Tesch said.
“That’s our savior for the fall,” he said. “The berries and acorns are looking good. There’s no reason they shouldn’t ripen up.”
Still, he said people need to remain vigilant about locking car doors and keeping food out of vehicles, as well as keeping front doors and ground-floor windows of homes locked, Tesch said. In addition, residents need to bring birdfeeders inside and not leave pet food outdoors, he said.
“It’s gonna continue,” Tesch said. “Until we catch these problem bears, there will be a problem.”
Olson said Snowmass Village officials are keeping an eye on a dozen bears, but two younger bear siblings appear to be the source of most of the problems so far.
Tesch said he’s been trying to trap the two bears to no avail.
“They won’t seem to go into the traps,” he said. “They’re wreaking havoc over there.”
Tesch said he’s also set a trap for a bear that’s been around the Aspen Meadows area. One Aspen Meadows guest said a bear broke into his hotel room last week.
In the city, bears have broken into three homes in the Smuggler Trailer Park in July, as well as an apartment in the 1400 building at Hunter Creek Apartments recently, Gordon said. Other bears have broken into homes in the Truscott area and around Aspen Valley Hospital, she said.
Most have gotten in through open windows, though one entered through a dog door, Gordon said.
“They’re going straight for the fridge,” she said.
A notice sent Monday to Hunter Creek residents said the bear entered the apartment through an open kitchen window in the middle of the night.
“Police responded to the issue, helped evict the bear and hazed it with bean bag pellets,” the notice from Hunter Creek management states. “No one was hurt thanks to a calm homeowner, although the bear made off with a few snacks for the effort.
“Unfortunately, the bear has likely learned there is food available at Hunter Creek.”
Bears in Pitkin County have broken into homes near the Aspen Recreation Center, Mountain Valley, the Emma area and in Old Snowmass, Baker said. The Brush Creek area also has seen home break-ins by bears, she said.
Most have gone straight for the kitchen, Baker said.
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