Momma bear, four cubs put down after breaking into Five Trees home in Aspen
Family of bears euthanized following a home break in near Maroon Creek Road in the vicinity of the public-school campus and Aspen Highlands
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) authorities euthanized a mother bear and her four cubs Sunday after determining they posed a neighborhood threat and could not be rehabilitated or relocated successfully, an official confirmed Tuesday.
The five bears were put down after the sow led the cubs into a home in the Five Trees neighborhood at approximately 5 a.m. Saturday, according to Rachael Gonzales, a CPW spokeswoman. The bears entered the residence through a closed but unlocked window on the home’s ground level, she said.
“It’s great they had the windows closed,” said Gonzales. “That’s what we’ve been preaching — close your windows on the ground level. But, having them locked is the next step; the same thing with doors. If you have doors and windows on the ground level or porch level, anything that is easy to get to should be closed and locked at all times.”
The bears didn’t show aggression toward the home’s occupants, but they damaged the window and the kitchen, she said.
“A family in the home at the time called, and we did set a trap,” she said. “The sow was caught on the following day in the early morning of the 21st (of August); and, while the sow was in the trap, the cubs attempted to break back into the home again.”
Gonzales said she did not know if the bears died by lethal injection or gunshot. A neighbor knowledgeable of the incident said it was by lethal injection.
Under Colorado’s two-strike policy, authorities will tag and relocate a black bear that has created a nuisance by entering a home or vehicle, for example. If the same bear is reported again as a nuisance, wildlife officers put it down.
The bruins that were killed Sunday had not been tagged, Gonzales said. But, they likely were repeat visitors to the neighborhood, she noted. The Five Trees subdivision is located off Maroon Creek Road in the vicinity of the public-school campus and Aspen Highlands.
“Given this situation, these bears were habitual,” she said. “So, chances are, them going back to their natural-food sources, even if we rehabilitate the cubs, are probably very slim.
“The other thing is, these bears went into a home where there were occupants, and the cubs tried to get back into the home, so they know that’s where food is.”
CPW’s call to euthanize the bears was done because they were bound to return and break in a residence, she said.
Local law enforcement were not involved and did not report to the incident. Ginna Gordon, who is Aspen Police Department’s community-response supervisor, and Emily Casebeer, who is Pitkin County’s community-resource officer, said they were unaware of last weekend’s episode. Both are in charge of their agencies’ wildlife control.
“We’ve have had a couple of calls on that side of town,” Gordon said of Five Trees. “But, I would say the bulk of our calls are in town.”
Residents in the Five Trees area said the bears had been frequent visitors for at least the two weeks until they died. Prior to last weekend’s break-in, the bears had not posed a problem, the neighbors said. The home’s address was not immediately available on Tuesday, and CPW did release it.
“Our No. 1 message: These situations are preventable,” Gonzales said. “The big message right now is talking about how these situations are preventable.”
Like Gonzales, Gordon said the deaths were preventable.
“It really starts with us,” Gordon said. “As a community, we have a part to play in this, and we need to partner together and educate newcomers and educate visitors. We all need to do our part to lock up trash because the consequences are serious, and we can do better.”
This year is average in terms of bear calls, but they have been on the rise of late, Gordon said.
“We’re really seeing our bear calls to ramp up,” she said. “Of all of our bear calls this year, 36% have come in August, and that’s telling me we’re seeing an increase of bears coming to Aspen. And, we’re going into the fall months where we’re going to continue to see bears coming into town and trying to stack on the calories before winter, and we need to be extra diligent about locking trash, removing fruit from fruit-bearing trees, removing bird feeders.”
The size of the mama bear’s litter was larger than usual, she said.
“It’s not rare for a bear to have four cubs, but it’s not normal,” she said. “Three cubs is normal, and two cubs is very, very normal.”
According to the National Wildlife Federation, black bear litters consist of one to five cubs, and most litters contain two cubs. Most black bears die in their early 20s, but some can live in the wild for up to 30 years, according to the organization.
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