Homeowner: Window was open when bear family broke into Aspen house

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
This photo shows some of the cubs in an Aspen neighborhood after they were euthanized by lethal injection Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022. The photo was provided by an unnamed source.
Courtesy photo

The euthanization of a bear sow and her four cubs Sunday, Aug. 14, outside of the same residence where they’d rummaged through the kitchen left the person who reported the bears with conflicting emotions.

“I feel really sick about it, but I understand, especially having my children and grandchildren here,” said the owner of the Primrose Path home, which is located in Aspen’s Meadowood subdivision. An earlier story erroneously reported the incident occurred in the nearby Five Trees subdivision.

She said the family felt threatened by the bears but sad about their fate. At least three of the bears entered the home in the early morning hours of Saturday, she said.

“We were all home,” she said. “I had three grandchildren under the age of 5 and my son-in-law and daughter, and all of them were trembling.”

The homeowner said the bears, including the mom, slunk their way through an open window on the ground-level. They demolished the screen but the window was left intact, she said.

The window was open about 10 to 12 inches, yet the bears “squeezed in — they got through a shockingly small space,” she said, noting she did not see the bears in person but watched security surveillance from her upstairs bedroom.

“The window was actually ajar a tiny bit for some fresh air,” she said. “The bear pulled open the window, ripped the screen out and stepped on chairs and broke a high chair and completely demolished the fridge.”

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman said Tuesday the window was closed but unlocked. She could not be reached for clarification Wednesday.

Parks and Wildlife stresses that ground-level doors and windows be locked and closed at night so that bears aren’t attracted by scents and don’t have easy access to a residence, either.

“Keep all bear-accessible windows and doors closed and locked, including home, garage and vehicle doors,” says its website.

The homeowner said she usually follows that advice.

“The ironic thing is I’m always telling my kids to be sure you lock all of the windows,” she said.

The bears did not charge or make contact with any of the family members, but the homeowner believed their safety was in peril. That’s why she called law enforcement, she said.

Police arrived within five minutes of her calling, the homeowner said. By the time the bears had retreated, a Parks and Wildlife officer who showed up later said they would be back, the homeowner said. A trap was placed in the home’s driveway to catch the sow, she said.

“The trapper came in the house and talked to me and said, ‘This is destructive and we can’t have this. I’m gonna trap it.'”

“I said, ‘What’s going to happen?’ and he said, ‘We’re going to euthanize it’ and they would relocate the babies.”

Sure enough, the bears returned around the same time, 5 a.m. the following Sunday morning, but the mama bear walked into the trap. By the time a state wildlife officer showed up to put down the sow, the cubs already had tried to enter the house through the same window they used the previous morning, the homeowner said. Their fresh paw prints were on the window, she said.

“They could see the paw prints because I had cleaned everything (from the previous morning) and the paw prints were all over the window,” she said.

Neighbors also reported seeing paw prints on their homes’ windows, she said.

Other nearby residents provided photos to The Aspen Times of the cubs crawling around the cage where their mom was trapped. The images were obtained through social media, they said.

This image shows two bear cubs by the trap where their mom was captured. A reader provided this photo, which has been circulating on social media.
Hugh Carey /

The officer decided that relocating the bears would be ineffective “because they will find their way back,” the homeowner said, “because they were rewarded.”

The bears showed no fear and seemed to be domesticated, she said.

“They will also grow up to be really big bears and we have to think about the safety of the neighborhood,” she said.

An email from one reader said, “I live on that street and I am very sad about this and I am sure a lot of other people are very sad too. I have a video of the bears on the day they where caught in the cage and killed. They were not aggressive and they were very calm. You could hear the cub bear sleeping in the cage.”

The Parks and Wildlife spokesman said human safety was the driving reason why the cubs and their mom were put down. Yet it should not have happened in the first place, she said.

“Again, I can’t stress enough the point that these types of incidents can be preventable,” said public information officer Rachael Gonzales in an email. “Bears are very smart and want to spend the least amount of time when it comes to packing on the calories. Once they learn where an easy food source is, they are going to keep going back to that source. When cubs see their mom getting into homes and trash they learn that is ok behavior.

“These habits can lead to the destruction of property, in this case, the window and kitchen. Most importantly, it can lead to a threat to human safety. It’s also important to know this is a team effort. Working together to ensure we’re taking all the steps to be bear aware by removing attractants and bear-proofing our homes we can help prevent these incidents in the future and keep bears wild.”

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