Bears charge humans near pile of corn on Aspen yard |

Bears charge humans near pile of corn on Aspen yard

Audrey Ryan
Aspen Times

ASPEN — While community members, Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff, municipal and county agencies as well as bear coalitions gathered at Pitkin County Library to discuss human-bear conflict solutions on Tuesday evening, two black bears were reportedly bluff charging pedestrians in an Aspen neighborhood.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers received a call during the town-hall meeting where they were discussing the euthanizing of a sow and her four cubs last month.

According to the National Park Service, bears typically exhibit two types of charges: bluff charges and aggressive charges. When a bear bluff charges, it will have its head and ears up and forward. The bear will bound toward a human on its front paws and then stop short or veer off.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Manager Matt Yamashita said there is no way to know or differentiate between a bluff charge and a real charge. Based on information from the reporting party, officers believe the sow was bluff charging pedestrians.

“Sometimes, these charges will stop within feet of the threat, which does not allow time or space to react if the bear were to not be bluffing. While this behavior is not outstanding, it can be a threat to human/public safety depending on the circumstances such as the frequency, location, etc,” he wrote.

Accompanying the call were pictures of a sow and two cubs loitering within the neighborhood subdivision. Photos also showed two bears standing over a large pile of corn in the front yard of a home.

In Colorado, it is illegal to place food or edible waste in the open with the intent of luring a bear. As per statute, on first offense violators are warned, not cited.

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer contacted the homeowner, who claimed to be feeding blue jays. Yamashita said the homeowner was informed that large quantities of grain on the ground is neither reasonable nor common practice for bird feeding. The homeowners were issued a warning and asked to remove the attractant.

At the town-hall meeting, community members expressed that they did not feel citations were severe enough to prevent behaviors, such as this, from recurring.

“As a law enforcement agency, CPW recognizes the importance and value of enforcement as a tool used to change behavior. However, enforcement is a form of education and other efforts to teach right from wrong should not be abandoned,” Yamashita said. “CPW’s goal is not to turn everyone into a criminal but to explore meaningful ways of teaching people rules and proper practices while appropriately using enforcement to address repeat offenders.”

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, this year is being categorized as a poor natural food year for bears. Late spring freezes prevented many fruit and nut-bearing plants from producing berries and acorns, and bears are searching for alternate food sources. Residents can expect bears to be active for two more months.

To keep bears and humans safe, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials asked residents to close doors, windows and garage doors when not in use. Additionally, hazing bears, even when not causing a problem, prevents bears from becoming comfortable around people and helps keep them wild.

“It is ironic that this occurred during last night’s (Tuesday) meeting meant to change human behavior and prevent conflicts,” Yamashita wrote in an email. “For CPW staff, it is a disappointing reminder that continued efforts to partner with local governments and community members to resolve bear conflicts can be undermined when the community as a whole doesn’t embrace these efforts and act responsibly.”

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