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Aspen Bear Nightmare!

“ASPEN, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Aspen Police officers responded to the 300 block of East Hopkins Avenue in Aspen at 11:30 last night after a large black bear bit a local restaurant manager, resulting in four deep puncture wounds to the man’s leg.”

The above is from a press release from CPW telling of an incident dealing with a black bear in a populated area who had decided that a trash dumpster was his new favorite place to frolic. Employees from the restaurant that owned the dumpster were refusing to dump their trash in the dumpster while the bear was getting an easy meal. The manager, in poor judgement, decided that trying to scare the bear out was the best course of action and for his trouble got a nice bite mark or two on his leg.

According to CPW the bear will have to be put down once it is located and because bears are habitual with incidents like this, it is highly unlikely they won’t find him. This incident highlights to great effect how urbanization in places like Colorado is negatively impacting animals, in particular, predators. This is the third incident in the Aspen area recently and it is unlikely that negative interactions will stop.

So how did it come to this in CO? Let’s start with the obvious, a growing population and year round tourism in places like Aspen is putting people with little to no experience with bears face to muzzle almost daily. 

With a growing trash output to match the growing human population it is pretty easy to see how opportunists like bears take to dumpster diving for an easy meal. Generally speaking there are two populations of bears that fall for the easy pickings, the youngest and oldest animals. The young animals have usually just been kicked off of their mother and they are searching for an easy meal. There is hope for these animals as moving them can be successful but it doesn’t take long to rack up three strikes.

Next up is a growing population of bears that only gets hunted during the absolute hardest time to harvest them. By and large most spring bear seasons are set up to harvest the oldest members of the population, the ones most likely to have conflict. As bears get older they get smarter and as they eat they wear down their teeth. Fewer teeth will mean that they will be searching for easier meals… like the back of a restaurant in the dumpster. If I had a giant tooth ache I would be eating a shake not hard candy, bears would do the same thing with leftovers being the shake.

To those of us who hunt them it’s no surprise that conflict is up in a place that doesn’t have a spring season. Will the spring season end all conflict? No, it will never go completely away but it sure wouldn’t hurt to have bear populations meaningfully managed to prevent this type of thing. Education of the growing population would also help but sometimes common sense has to prevail, was it really a good idea to try and scare that bear out of a dumpster?

What say you, would a spring season help prevent these conflicts?

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  1. CO is the next CA when it comes to a majority mind set on hunting/conservation. When the majority does not understand the stewardship of hunting you will have limited hunting and some bad game laws because states Fish & Game agency will have its hands tied politically, if CO decides to introduce wolves into the state the problem will become multiplied.

  2. Colorado has become “Colofornia” because of all the California transplants/escapees that have decided to invade a beautiful State and bring their warped ideas and politics with them, turning their new home into the same thing they escaped from.

  3. A spring season, with baiting allowed, makes total sense. I know CO dropped the cost of the current tags for nonresidents this yr; that’s a step in the right direction, but a spring season, at least in areas that need the population trimmed down; makes total sense.

  4. I am not sure how much money it would take to reinstate the spring hunt ( with bait) but it seems like it would be a lot less than we currently spend on control. It seems like a good time for Safari Club or Theodore Roosevelt or other organizations to step in, do a study and let us sports persons know how much we need to raise to make it happen. The funds needed seem to be a mystery and I (for one) would gladly contribute.I was told by CPW that 400 bears are euthanized annually.

  5. It’s a shame what Colorado is turning into, ( “California East” ). I went to gunsmithing school in Lakewood in the 80’s and it was an entirely different political mindset. It’s governing seemed more common sense based and its game management reflected that. Now that urban sprawl is affecting much of the western states, wildlife encounters are going to continue to increase and become more problematic. Politicians need to allow true experts to guide solutions, not those who react based on emotion or have no experience in these matters. Division of wildlife officials should have the resources to make decisions based on knowledge, experience, and facts so as the outcome is a positive one. Anti-hunting is driving too much of a politically controlled environment which results in everyone losing except for developers. Hunting community loses, future generations lose, and most importantly the wildlife they emphatically are trying to protect lose the most.

  6. Lawrence Wilson

    I grew up in Washington many years ago with a year around bear season, yet we still had plenty of bears for hunters & sight seers. Want a bear problem, reduce hunting opportunities.


    Colorado has been CALIFORNICATED. And many of those Californians have brought their californidcated ideals and california politics with them. Expect more of the same!

  8. While I agree with the responses about the huge liberal shift in the state (I’ve lived here over 35 years), we can’t blame the whole bear hunting situation solely on the transplants. Spring bear hunts, baiting and dogs where banned clear back in 1992 when the radical animals rights groups used a strategy to get the ban on a voter ballot. Then with slick advertising they pulled at the heart strings of every city housewife and 19-year old girl and the ban passed. This should be a warning to every other state. Leave game management to the professionals with strong public oversight. Or you end up with the bear issues we are facing (and by the way an 8-year old boy was jumped by a Mountain Lion the other day in CO).

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