ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Following two separate bear attacks on campers near Aspen over the weekend, a top bear expert with the state says he doesn’t believe bears are targeting humans for food.
“If they’re targeting anything, it’s the food humans leave behind,” said John Broderick, a Terrestrial Programs manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
CBS4 obtained the first pictures of the campsite at Minnehaha Gulch where a man in a tent was badly bitten in the leg Saturday morning. One picture shows where the bear ripped into the tent. Another image depicts a large blood smear on camping equipment.
In Saturday’s incident an empty bag of freeze dried food was tucked in a backpack and kept inside the tent, according to Mike Porras, a West Slope spokesman for Parks and Wildlife. He says campers in the Aspen area have been continually warned by wildlife officers to make sure food is stored properly to avoid attracting bears.
“Once they know that’s an easy food source, then they tend to become more emboldened,” explained Broderick.
Broderick should know. As part of his three decades of experience dealing with black bears, he recently studied how the animals interact with people in the Aspen area.
Within a day of Saturday’s attack wildlife officers used tracking dogs to locate a black bear in the vicinity. The creature was put down. Wildlife officers were sure they got the right bear, according to Porras, because the dogs quickly picked up the scent; the bear was nearby and matched the description of the attacker.
Broderick is confident too but not absolutely positive.
“I would be in the range of 95 percent confident … that we’re capturing the right animal,” he said.
That leaves five percent unsure.
“We could make an error,” he conceded.
Montana wildlife officers were 100 percent confident after a fatal grizzly bear attack near Yellowstone National Park last year. DNA testing was used to confirm the attacker’s identify before a captured grizzly was euthanized. But Broderick told CBS4 such DNA testing is just not realistic in Colorado where black bears are abundant, unlike grizzlies, which are listed as threatened species.