Snowmass police continue to look for person who left food that led to bear cub death
The Aspen Times
Snowmass Police are continuing their investigation into where boxes of undelivered packaged snacks a family of black bears got into last weekend on the Village Mall — which ultimately led to the death of a cub — came from.
“The bear’s death is not anyone’s fault. … Our department takes responsibility,” Snowmass Police Chief Brian Olson emphasized Thursday. “But the food that was left out contributed, and we feel having a conversation about how to prevent it happening again in the future is what’s most important.”
Around 10 p.m. Nov. 8, police received a report that a bear and her two cubs were feeding on three boxes of packaged snacks left on a dolly near a Village Mall stairwell, as previously reported.
The officer who responded struck the mother on the backside with less-than-lethal beanbag ammunition deployed from a shotgun in an attempt to haze the bears from the area, Olson said earlier this week.
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When the officer attempted to do the same to one of the cubs, it reportedly moved and the beanbag hit and penetrated its stomach area, causing a serious wound. Snowmass police had to track the cub and safely put it down.
Since the incident, Olson said police have attempted to find out where the boxes of snacks were headed and who was responsible for failing to deliver them.
Leaving the food outside wasn’t really a crime, Olson said Thursday. But according to the town’s Wildlife Protection Ordinance, which is in effect from April 15 to Nov. 15 every year, Snowmass police and animal control officers have the power to issue warning notices and penalties to people who do not store or dispose of food in a wildlife resistant container or enclosure.
“We feel strongly about writing the person (a ticket), but reserve the right to make that decision when we get there,” Olson said. “We care more about talking with the person about their mistake.”
Snowmass police confiscated the dolly left on the mall last Friday and hope someone will come forward to claim it, Olson said. Officers have talked with several mall businesses in the area, who claimed the delivery wasn’t theirs, and are looking for video surveillance footage that may have captured the Friday night incident.
As of Thursday afternoon, Olson said police believe the food may have been headed for a mall vending machine.
The officer who accidentally injured the bear cub was not placed on administrative leave, Olson said. The officer is on their regular schedule.
“The officer did nothing wrong. The circumstances changed, and it ended in disaster,” Olson said. “One second something can seem like a good option and the next second it changes. … The officer feels terrible and is devastated, but we will learn from this situation as a department.”
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The coronavirus threat delayed the opening of developed campgrounds in the Roaring Fork, Fryingpan and Crystal valleys. The Forest Service will phase them back in by June 12.