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Bear attack came while Aspen couple ate dinner

Before David and Mary Berley could take their first bites of dinner Thursday night, they found themselves running from a bear that had entered their home through the front door.

David, 69, encountered the bear in the entryway and was clawed in the face. He was transported via ambulance to Aspen Valley Hospital shortly after 8 p.m. He sustained a deep wound on his cheek, as well as from his ear to his chin. Several stitches were required and David remained in the hospital Friday night so doctors could monitor him for possible infection.

Mary said as she and David sat down for a lasagna dinner at a center island in their kitchen, the couples three black labs started ferociously barking.

“We didn’t hear the bear come in but the dogs took off down the stairs,” Mary said. “They had [the bear] cornered up against the door.”

David got up, looked down the stairs and saw a large black bear in the entryway. In an attempt to save the dogs, he went near the bear and then was attacked.

“He had blood all over and a huge gouge where the bear swiped him,” Mary said.

David retreated up the stairs and the bear followed him. He attempted to put a chair in front of the stairs to block the bear but to no avail. David was able to open the kitchen window above the sink before locking himself in his office, located off the kitchen. Mary locked herself in the upstairs bedroom and called 911.

The bear walked through the kitchen, left the Berleys’ dinner alone, and exited through the open window. The wood frame around the window was torn up but there was no other damage to the house, although the bear did urinate in the front entryway, Mary said.

She said the ordeal lasted about 10 minutes.

Pitkin County Sheriff deputies, Aspen police officers and Colorado Division of Wildlife officers responded to the scene.

A bear trap was set in the front of the home, located on Laurel Lane in the Meadowood subdivision. DOW officers are patrolling the area at night in hopes of catching the bear, which will be killed once caught. As of Friday afternoon, the bear had not returned to the scene, said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton.

Mary said she had seen a bear a few nights ago wandering the neighborhood and getting into loose garbage, most likely left by construction workers who are installing a new sewer line in the neighborhood.

The Berleys have lived in the neighborhood since the 1960s and have never encountered a break-in by a bear even though bruins have been spotted in area over the years.

Thursday’s attack is the third bear vs. human incident this summer.

On Aug. 17, Maureen Hirsch was attacked in her home in the Castle Creek drainage near Power Plant Road. She sustained minor injuries to her chest and back after she came face to face with a bear in foyer near the kitchen shortly after 10 p.m. Police said the bear forcibly entered the home through locked French doors.

Two nights later, DOW officials shot and killed the 500-pound bear, which had returned to Hirsch’s property.

Then on Aug. 31, the DOW euthanized a bear after it scratched a woman’s shin while she slept on her deck in the Mountain Valley neighborhood on Aspen’s east side. She jumped up, and the bear left the deck but remained in the yard until wildlife officers and Aspen police arrived. It then climbed a tree before officers tranquilized and removed it.

csack@aspentimes.com