ASPEN, Colo. – The Colorado Division of Wildlife is investigating a bear attack that injured an Aspen homeowner in her home Monday night. DOW officials are currently attempting to capture the bear in order to euthanize it.
“A person certainly has a right to feel safe in their own home,” said Perry Will, DOW Area Wildlife Manager. “This was an unprovoked attack and, if located, the offending bear will be put down. Bears that break into secured homes and bears that are aggressive towards people are too dangerous to relocate.”
At approximately 10:10 p.m. the woman had gone to the main floor of the home in the western part of the city to work in her home office. As she passed through the entry way of the home, she reported that her small dog began barking frantically and she was suddenly confronted by a large bear. The woman screamed and turned to open the front door to get the bear out of the house, but the bear struck the woman leaving lacerations on her back and chest. The homeowner was able to flee to the upstairs bedroom and call 9-1-1. The bear remained in the home for a short time but left as police responded.
Division of Wildlife officers arrived a short time later and began the efforts to locate the bear. Initial investigation indicates that the bear gained entry to the home by physically forcing open a pair of unlocked French doors. Wildlife officers found no bear attractants around the property that might have guided the offending bear to the location.
Based on the description of the bear and the method of entry, DOW officers believe that the same bear may be responsible for several other home entries and attempted break-ins in the area.
“Most of these cases start with bears getting into a home through an open door or window,” explained Will. “Once they get in and are rewarded by finding food, it is fairly easy for these powerful animals to force their way into other homes in search of food.”
DOW and Aspen officials have been urging area resident to keep doors and windows locked this summer to minimize bear problems in the community. Residents and visitors have also been barraged with a stream of messages about trash, pet food, birdfeeders and other potential bear attractants.
Wildlife officers who have examined area natural food sources are reporting some discouraging findings. The moist spring may have been too moist in some areas and appears to have lead to some plant health issues. Damaged berry crops and localized crop failures have been observed, as has the presence of some form of plant ‘rust’ and some kind of fungus or mold, which impairs productivity. Wildlife officials are reaching out to plant ecologists to determine the cause and extent of damage to natural food sources.
Despite these localized food failures, there do appear to be other areas where berry crops are in good shape; however bears may be spending less time looking for those areas when human food sources are readily available.
In addition, the onset of cooler weather may signal that challenges for residents in bear areas may get worse before they get better, said Kevin Wright, DOW District Wildlife Manager for the Aspen area.
“In the past few days, we’ve seen temperatures dropping during the night,” Wright said. “These cooler temperatures will signal bears to increase their calorie intake and prepare for hibernation.”
As winter approaches, bears are compelled to gorge themselves, a condition known as hyperphagia. During this period bears will feed for approximately 20 hours each day. An average black bear will consume approximately 20,000 calories each day in an effort to put on considerable body fat to survive winter hibernation.
“The Division of Wildlife implores residents in Colorado’s high country take bear precautions seriously,” Will said. “The DOW does not want to put down bears, but we absolutely will if it is required to protect public safety. If everyone helps out by properly securing their trash, keeping doors and windows secure, feeding pets indoors and taking down birdfeeders, it will give bears the incentive to seek out available natural food sources outside of town.”