ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Wildlife officials predicted this would be a bad summer for bears. Drought conditions early in the spring were good indications this would be a deadly year for the animals, and now it’s known just how bad the year has been.
This summer travelers in Aspen aren’t looking at mountains and changing leaves, they’re looking for bears, and they’re hardly leaving town.
“Somebody told us about them at the hotel where we’re staying, so we came wandering down to see them,” tourist Anita Soares said.
A mother and three cubs were perched in a tree next to restaurants and shops. Hundreds stopped to look and take photos. Bears are such a common occurrence in Aspen that police officers can take the time to catch up on other work.
“They were here almost all night last night just kind of wandering up and down the mall doing their thing,” Adam Laudon with Aspen police said.
Aspen police respond to nearly 20 bear calls a night. Nuisance bears rummage through dumpsters and the back doors of restaurants looking for an easy meal.
“After they’ve been rewarded in a home they know that there is food and rewards there and they get more aggressive and start breaking in,” Wildlife Manager Perry Will said.
Will says Colorado Parks And Wildlife has had to kill more than 30 bears this summer. Some were bears that were relocated but returned and continued to cause problems.
“People want to think, ‘Take them to the wilderness.’ We hear that all the time. ‘Take them out in the wilderness and turn them loose.’ Well, we do do that, but that doesn’t mean they live happily ever after,” Will said.
Poor crops are blamed for the deadly summer for bears. More bears could run into problems before hibernation.
“Oh, we’ll have some more issues, no question,” Wills said. “We have them every day.”
Game managers say only 2007 and 2009 had bigger droughts that were more damaging to the bear population. Conditions may improve with more winter-like weather settling in.