Bears flocked to Aspen

  • FURRY TOURIST: Young bear tries to get out of dumpster

    Michael Brands photo
  ASPEN, Colo. - Celebrity sightings are old news in the place known as "Glitter Gulch." New this summer and fall were black bear sightings. "The number of nuisance bear calls was the highest it's been since I moved here 20 years ago," says Randy Cote, Colorado Department of Wildlife's Aspen-area district manager, who received more than 100 bruin-related calls a week between mid-July and mid-August.

It's like a twisted version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Families of bears have been frequenting houses, sitting in cars, falling asleep in backyards, and eating much more than porridge. As a result, they have traded "we can't get enough of you" appeal for "we've had too much of you" rancor.

Five bears from the Aspen/Snowmass area were destroyed this summer under the "two-strikes' rule, a state edict established in 1994 that punishes repeat raiders with death. Six more bears were killed by cars, while others received buckshot in the rear end.

Local residents such as Dottie Fox, chairperson of the Aspen Wilderness Workshop, say this is no way to treat bears. The fault, she says, often lies with homeowners who leave out trash, pet food or birdseed - all prime enticements for a hungry bear.

The solution? "Educate people on how to co-exist with bears - they were here first," says Jim Kravitz at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Or, as state wildlife division staffer Mike Reid puts it, remember that, "You don't have a bear in your backyard; the bear has a house in his front yard."

* Melissa Coleman