Bear helps police shoot out a window at The Aspen Times |

Bear helps police shoot out a window at The Aspen Times

Stewart Oksenhorn The Aspen TimesEmployees at The Aspen Times arrived to work Friday to see that that one of the office's front windows had been smashed out. Turns out it was caused by a beanbag, fired by an Aspen police officer, that deflected off of a bear and broke the window. Office manager Dottie Wolcott called local handyman Wes Cantrell, who patched up the hole with cardboard and red tape.

The Aspen Police Department insists it does not have a problem with the local media, even though it shot out a front window at The Aspen Times offices some time late Thursday or early Friday.

While pursuing a black bruin and trying to spook it out of town, officer Jeff Fain used a non-lethal weapon to fire a beanbag at the critter. Fain hit his target, but the beanbag deflected off the bear, and through a window at the Main Street newspaper.

It was the first time that a beanbag intended for a bear caused property damage, said Police Chief Richard Pryor, adding the police department will pay to replace the broken window.

“When we rewrite our bear policy we’ll make sure to include to not fire near a news building,” Pryor jested.

Joking aside, the bear problem is hardly a laughing manner these days.

In fact, the abundance of hungry bears in the Aspen area prompted the Department of Wildlife to ask Aspen police and county deputies to shoot and kill those bruins that are deemed dangerous or aggressive -in other words, ones that break through locked doors, have attacked someone, or pose a threat to a human.

Pryor said a new bear policy has been written by the police department addressing how to handle the aggressive bears when the DOW is not available to euthanize him. He said Pitkin County Undersheriff Tom Grady is expected to take a look at it Tuesday before it becomes official.

Both the police department and the sheriff’s office will likely work in tandem when it comes to aggressive bears within city limits, Pryor said. That’s because the police department does not have shotguns, which is the preferred lethal weapon to take down the problematic bears.

“The deputies have shotguns that can use slugs and we don’t have that capability,” Pryor said. “And it sounds like the DOW suggests that the shotgun is the method to use.”

DOW spokesman Randy Hampton has said that the agency, which staffs one ranger in the Aspen area, can’t always be on the scene for dangerous or aggressive bears calls. That’s why he wants back-up from police and deputies.

“They’re a fellow agency and we want to help them whenever they can,” Pryor said. “[The DOW] has been astonishingly responsible all summer and has showed up when we need them.”

Pryor said he does not expect the shooting and killing of bears by local police and deputies to be a common occurrence.

“If one of these situations should arise, which I feel will be pretty rare, we would make the request of the sheriff’s office to assist us and euthanize the bear,” he said.

Currently, Aspen police use beanbag guns, like the one that blew out the Times window, to scare bears away. The DOW euthanizes aggressive and dangerous bears by trapping and tranquilizing them, or, sometimes, by shooting them.

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