A bear visited the Snow Queen Victorian Lodge three days this week, with its first appearance early Wednesday morning, when it entered the front door, ate two refrigerators full of food and stayed for about 45 minutes before Aspen police officers chased it out.
The front door at 124 E. Cooper Ave. was slightly ajar Wednesday, allowing the bear entry to the lodge around 4:30 a.m. Owner Norma Dolle said manager M Baker heard noise coming from the kitchen, opened the door and spotted the bear.
“So she slammed the door, and it just helped itself in the kitchen there,” Dolle said, noting that the lodge has never had a bear incident in 40-plus years.
After the bear entered, the door closed behind it and it took Patrol Officer Gregg Cole, who used a beanbag gun, nearly an hour to funnel it out. Police administrative staff member Kathy Tolle said Cole relayed to her that the bear opened two refrigerators and a cabinet, finding milk, half-and-half cream, ice cream and breakfast rolls. When Cole arrived, the bear was lying on the floor in its own feces, possibly suffering from a stomach ache.
Baker said she now recognizes the bear’s voice, as it has wandered back both Thursday and Friday in the early morning, grunting outside the property. The bear has successfully avoided a trap that police set up. The animal triggered the contraption Thursday but ignored it completely Friday. However, it has not been able to gain entry since its first visit.
Tolle noted that police responded Wednesday to eight bear calls in Aspen during a 24-hour period.
“There are a lot of bears in town,” Tolle said.
Dolle said that a few weeks ago, bears ransacked a couple of cherry trees near the lodge, and she suspects one of those animals is her frequent visitor.
“It’s probably the same bear who ate those cherries,” Dolle said. “That happened a couple weeks ago, so (the bear) probably said, ‘Hey, that looks like an interesting place. I’ll go back there.’”
Police say bears are eating voraciously right now as they prepare for hibernation.
In addition to replacing a side door the bear damaged trying to escape Wednesday, Dolle said she paid a cleaning service $1,200 to deal with the mess. She hopes insurance will cover the cost.