Bear that injured an Aspen woman breaks into nearby home next night
August 20, 2009
Officials believe that the same bear that attacked an Aspen woman in her home Monday broke into another person’s house about 24 hours later in the same neighborhood, using the same method – tearing into locked French doors.
John Case, who lives on Mountain View Drive in the Cemetery Lane neighborhood, said a large bear broke into his house shortly after midnight Wednesday. He called 911, and Aspen police and officers from the Division of Wildlife arrived within minutes.
Case said he was sleeping when he awoke to sounds of something or someone in the house. He walked out of his bedroom and saw the bear standing on all fours in his dining room about 30 feet away.
“He was looking at me, and I was looking at him,” he said. “He’s a big … bear.”
After about 30 seconds, the bear backed up and left the house, Case said.
His house is located just a few properties away from where DOW officials set a trap in an attempt to capture and kill the bruin. His house also is located a short distance downstream from Maureen Hirsch’s home, who lives on Power Plant Road in the Castle Creek drainage, where another trap has been set.
Hirsch was attacked Monday night at about 10 by the bear, estimated to weight about 500 pounds. As she walked in her home toward the kitchen, Hirsch was confronted by the bruin, who swiped her back and chest as she turned to open the front door to create an exit for him. She sustained minor injuries and was treated at Aspen Valley Hospital. The bear had gained access through locked French doors, which are rarely used, according to Hirsch.
Case said the bear split the door jam and tore it open from the top. He said he woke up when he heard a loud “kaboom” of the bear gaining access to his home.
“I guess French doors are his thing,” Case said. “It was exactly the same.”
There was a large plastic triceratops toy statue between the bear and Case, which may have acted as a deterrent for the bruin, who never made it to the kitchen.
“I credit the triceratops … I don’t know if it scared him,” Case laughed.
His wife and four children are out of town, and there is zero food in the house, Case noted, and the barbecue grill was clean.
“There was nothing to draw it other than previous experience,” Case said of the bear’s learned behavior of seeking out human food.
DOW officials are patrolling the neighborhood in search of the bear, who, if caught, will be euthanized because of its aggressive behavior. The bear remained at large as of Wednesday afternoon, said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton.
That makes many residents in the neighborhood nervous, especially since many families with children live on Mountain View Drive.
“It makes my wife very concerned because we have four small children under 10,” Case said. “What worries us is a kid-bear encounter at dusk.”
It might take a while to capture the bear and stop it from terrorizing the neighborhood.
When a bear attacked a woman in Castle Ridge Apartments last year, it took five days to capture it, Hampton said, adding traps will only produce so much.
“Just like open doors, they get educated about traps,” he said.
Hampton said many people in the Aspen community won’t call police or the DOW when they see evidence of a bear trying to break into a property because they think the animal will be harmed.
“People are not telling the DOW because they know we’re going to kill it,” Hampton said. “All they are doing is putting their neighbors and themselves at risk.”
He urges people to keep their trash secured and report sightings because the bears may end up being relocated.
On Tuesday, the Aspen Police Department received dozens of calls regarding bears. Most notable were:
• A bear made a run through the courtyard restaurant of the Little Nell.
• A bear in a garage on Sierra Vista Drive.
• A bear trying to break into a home on Mountain Laurel Drive.
• A bear broke into a vehicle on Gillespie Street.