Groggy bears starting to appear in Aspen; officials give reminder on locking up trash
Bears around Aspen are beginning to wake up from their winter hibernation and head out in search of something to fill their empty bellies.
Most of the 11 calls the city Police Department has received so far this spring have been simple bear sightings, or just “bears being bears,” though three calls have involved bears getting into trash, Ginna Gordon, Aspen police community resource officer, said Monday.
“It’s interesting,” Gordon said. “A lot of the calls have been about behavior that seems strange. [The bears] appear groggy. But it’s probably not strange. They’re just waking up.”
The bears’ impact on humans this summer so far remains to be seen and hinges largely on whether a late spring freeze, which kills bear food sources, occurs, said Gordon and other wildlife officials.
For example, last summer was a normal year when a late-spring freeze did not occur, and the Police Department received about 170 bear calls, Gordon said. The summer of 2017, however, was a different story.
That spring, a late freeze did occur, and the bears got hungrier and hungrier until they started hanging out in town eating the crab apple crop, and breaking into houses and cars looking for other food sources. The Aspen Police Department responded to 913 bear calls that spring, summer and fall.
Wildlife managers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife euthanized 18 bears in 2017 and relocated another four bears.
A 2-year-old male bear that was relocated out of Steamboat Springs earlier this month had to be euthanized a week later when it got into a farmer’s beehive near Meeker. There is a two-strike policy with bears interacting with humans. It is presumed to be the first bear put down this year.
Aspen police are planning an outreach effort to downtown restaurants this spring to ensure they know that trash must be secured in bear-proof containers, Gordon said. Residents must also secure their trash and recyclables, she said. Trash receptacles that remain permanently outside must be bear-proof, while those wheeled out on trash days must be bear-resistant, Gordon said.
The city means business with the bear-proof trash rules, too. First-time offenders can be fined $250, while the price doubles for a second offense and rises to $1,000 and a mandatory Municipal Court date for the third offense, she said.
ReRe Baker, wildlife officer with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said she’s received four bear calls so far this year, plus another in the Basalt area.
Gordon urged residents to remove food from cars and lock car doors. She also said rinsing out recyclables can cut down on animal interest in trash.
“I think it says they’re waking up,” Baker said. “It’s pretty normal.”
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A coalition of northwest Colorado local governments want more say-so in the plan to reintroduce wolves in the state, especially as it relates to the Western Slope.