With temperatures warming, hungry bears are beginning to wake up in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Just before 5 a.m. Thursday, a massive bruin was spotted digging through trash at the Little Ajax housing complex, located on West Hopkins Avenue at the base of Shadow Mountain. Paul Kurkulis, a 13-year resident, said he and his wife were woken up by noises coming from their communal trash room. Thinking it was an intruder, they called the police, who discovered one of the “biggest, fattest” bears Kurkulis has even seen.
“I don’t know what the cop did, but like 15 seconds later, I’m looking through my bedroom window, and below me, this huge, huge bear barrels out,” he said. “And the cop shot him in the butt with a bean bag. I highly doubt the bear felt anything because it was so corpulent. It was a fat, fat bear, and it just kept on cruising.”
This was the Aspen Police Department’s second bear call this year, according to spokeswoman Blair Weyer. On April 6, a bear was reported in town, but it disappeared before police arrived.
“The bear [Thursday] morning was hazed, which indicates that it was doing something to warrant negative reinforcement, most likely in trash,” Weyer said in an email.
Despite the fact that the complex’s trash room is key-code activated, the bear was able to gain entry. Kurkulis, who hasn’t seen any other bears this spring, assumed that someone left the door open because “the bear didn’t have the dexterity to punch in or know the code, right?” Police responded in about two or three minutes, according to Kurkulis, who gave police the code because the bear had locked itself inside.
When the bear ran away, Kurkulis said it left a Toll House cookie-dough wrapper behind. He guessed that the animal dropped the wrapper after being struck in the rear end with a bean bag.
“He licked it clean,” Kurkulis said. “He just dropped it. I think [the police officer] shot him in the butt, and he got scared and maybe opened his mouth for one too many seconds.”
The bear sighting was a surprise for Kurkulis because he was under the impression that they wake up later in the spring. After the incident, there was discrepancy over whether the cookie dough was chocolate or peanut butter. Kurkulis always assumed that bears are peanut-butter fans, but his wife determined it to be chocolate chip.
“The cop shot him in the butt with a bean bag. I highly doubt the bear felt anything because it was so corpulent.”