Bear signs

Bear warning signs at Smuggler Trailer Park.

If or when you see one of the signs that have sprung up around town with the non-emergency dispatch phone number displayed, that doesn’t mean there’s a bear in the immediate vicinity. It does mean, though, that you’re in a neighborhood with increased bear activity, and if you see such activity, you should absolutely report it.

“It’s just a new tool we have, and it’s kind of a trial,” said Aspen Community Response Officer Ginny Gordon. “We’re just trying to see if we can place them in areas where we’ve seen some bear activity and bring some situational awareness to just be aware and take some extra precautions to make sure their homes are secure and their cars.”

Gordon isn’t sure exactly of the sign’s origins, but she used them to roll out the outreach program starting about a week ago, she said.

“Us using them in this capacity is very new,” she continued. “We’re trying not to keep them out 24/7, so we’re trying to strategically place them where we are seeing increased bear activity.”

Gordon noted that, while this season is already proving to be a popular one for bears, it’s certainly not the most extreme year the city has seen.

“It still is not as bad as 2017, where we had 615 calls in the city. This year, we’re had 247, which is a lot, but we have seen years with more bear activity,” she said.

Yesterday, a woman called Aspen Police about a bear she saw near the second bridge along the Hunter Creek Trail — which is perfectly normal, said Nathalie Nevins, a Pitkin County Open Space and Trails ranger.

“Just a bear being a bear. Another ranger did walk through the area and wasn’t able to find any sightings or anything like that,” she said. “They’ve been there longer than we have. We have quite a few that live in the area.”

As the job title implies, rangers aren’t always sitting at their desks by the phone. That’s another reason for the signs: They direct people to call dispatch.

“We have been using non-emergency dispatch as a means of getting a hold of us,” Nevins said. “We got a whole new set with information for everything ranging from news to bears to e-bikes to everything in between.”

This story was prompted by Aspen Daily News reporter Alycin Becktesh, who noticed the signs near the Smuggler Trailer Park yesterday morning.

“We just placed those out today. They just went out this morning,” Gordon said, adding that she was “encouraged” they’d already inspired a phone call.

Megan Tackett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @MeganTackett10.