Bear activity

A bear, which on Sunday night attacked a restaurant manager in the alley behind Steakhouse No. 316, shown here, was tracked and euthanized on Monday by state wildlife officials.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have trapped and killed the bear involved in last Sunday’s attack on a restaurant manager in Aspen.

Officers located the bear within town limits on Monday, the day after the attack. DNA test results received late Thursday confirmed it was the same bear that bit the restaurant manager after he tried to drive the bear out of the restaurant’s dumpster. A necropsy revealed the male bear weighed approximately 400 pounds, was healthy and tested negative for rabies.

“We had numerous officers and assistance from Aspen PD as we searched for the bear all day on Monday,” Matt Yamashita, area wildlife manager, said in a press release. “We encountered two other bears in town that did not match the description. Those bears were hazed but not captured.”

Officers then received a report of a large bear matching the description of the offending bear wandering in the same area of Sunday’s attack, which occurred behind Steakhouse No. 316 on Hopkins Avenue.

“We tracked it to a second-story balcony of a business one block from where the attack occurred,” said Yamashita. “At that location, we were able to dart it, then we moved it to our office where it was euthanized.”

Officers made the field determination that they had found the target bear based on descriptions provided by the victim and bystanders the evening of the attack. Measurements of the bear’s teeth while it was immobilized matched those of the bite wounds sustained by the victim. In addition, the proximity of the bear to the location of the incident contributed to the officers’ confidence that the right bear was located.

Yamashita says because the bear was so large, had attacked a person and continued to roam in town limits, it was clearly a serious threat to people.

“A bear this size and unafraid of humans could have easily killed a person with little effort,” said Yamashita. “It’s unfortunate this bear had to die for this reason, especially when you consider it was totally preventable. Based on our experience, there was no chance this bear could be rehabilitated after it bit a person.”

Aspen and the surrounding areas have endured a busy bear year so far in 2019. In addition to three attacks on humans over the summer, calls to 911 reporting bear encounters have varied between five and 20 a day since mid-June. At least two or three of the daily calls include bears inside homes or attempting to break into homes while frightened residents hide in bedrooms and closets.

Despite the high level of activity so far, CPW warns the bears are just getting started. In response to the approaching change of seasons, bears are entering into a state of hyperphagia, an instinctive, metabolic change resulting in an almost constant feeding frenzy as the bears prepare for winter hibernation.

“For some bears, natural foods may not be enough so they will come into human-populated areas in search of an easy meal,” said Yamashita. “If bears have easy access to food, they will keep coming back, and that puts people at significant risk.”

Yamashita says CPW officers will carry out their duties to protect the public but unless residents take stronger measures to protect themselves he fears it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured, or killed.

“This is not sustainable,” he said. “This is in no way a normal, acceptable situation. Yes, the habitat around Aspen is perfect for bears, but that should not be an excuse to let them feed out of your dumpster, your trash can or your pantry. Consider this a warning — people need to understand how serious and dangerous this is, accept their responsibility, then take action immediately.”