ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4)– It’s one of the biggest issues facing residents of Aspen and the rest of Pitkin County: what to do with the growing bear population.
Pitkin County is delegating thousands of dollars to a bear rehabilitation facility in Silt, the Schneegas Wildlife Foundation, after a severe decrease in funds the year before.
Last year the foundation received $500 through a community grant program. This year the foundation asked for $5,000 but was awarded $3,000. The foundation had received $2,500 a year from Pitkin County until last year when the funding was severely cut.
“Our mission is to return wildlife back to the wild, so we take injured and orphaned wildlife, provide quality care for them and then return them back to the wild,” said Schneegas Wildlife Foundation spokeswoman Nanci Limbach.
This year 10 cubs are in the care of the foundation with nearly half of them coming from Pitkin County.
“Some of the bears, their mothers were hit by cars so that’s how we ended up with them. Others, they had to euthanize the mothers and we ended up with the cubs to rehabilitate them,” said Limbach.
The cubs come to the foundation from Pitkin County and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The organization runs entirely off donations and volunteer work. They hoped Pitkin County would return to giving $2,500, the amount they received up until 2011.
“Several smaller grants add up and each bear costs quite a bit to raise. I know one commissioner said $500 isn’t enough to feed a bear and it’s, no, not really. That’s why we appreciate the $3,000 they increased it to,” said Limbach.
The cubs eat 20 pounds of fruit and 10 pounds of dog food each day. The money isn’t only designated toward feeding.
“They destroy their houses because it’s what they do,” said Limbach.
With the winter off to a dry start, Limbach hopes there aren’t more bear cubs coming to live at the facility, “I know there are still bears wandering around Aspen which is usually our last place that they finally go into hibernation, so if we get some good storms I think the bears will finally go, ‘Okay, I give up’ and they’ll go into hibernation.”
The grants the county awards are for human services but commissioners agreed that the rehabilitation of bears from its community served a human need as well.
RELATED LINK: schneegaswildlifefoundation.org