ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – A sheriff’s deputy is recovering from severe wounds after being attacked by a bear in Aspen over the weekend.
Wildlife officers say the bears are following their appetites to trash around town. All throughout downtown Aspen the alleyways are filled with large dumpsters. The business where the attack happened is now being fined for not locking their dumpster Saturday night.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife gave CBS4 some photos of the alleyway Sunday morning just after Deputy Erin Smiddy was injured. The photos show trash piled so high the dumpster couldn’t close.
“Bears are opportunistic, they’re looking for a quick, easy meal; and many times they’ll find it in a populated area,” Mike Porras with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.
There were two bear calls to the area early Sunday. The second resulted in the injury to Smiddy.
“Black bears are not after people, per se. They’re not hunting humans, but they’re large powerful animals. This bear was described as a 400-pound boar. It can do a lot of damage with just one swipe. So I think overall this woman was lucky that she wasn’t more severely injured,” Porras said.
The off-duty deputy and the bear apparently startled each other.
“In this case she was able to kick at it, she didn’t turn and run, and she was able to fend off that attack,” Porras said.
Over the week bear calls have increased around Aspen. Wildlife officers say despite a wet winter and no late frost, natural food in the forest is still hard to come by.
“We haven’t even reached the time when bears start preparing for hyperplasia,” Porras said. “That’s when they’re metabolism increases and they’re looking for food even more aggressively than they are at this point in time, and that’s what gives us concern.”
Another bear was euthanized in Aspen Sunday morning, but the aggressive bear in the attack is still eluding wildlife officers.
“We did have a trap here overnight, we were unsuccessful in trapping this bear,” Porras said. “We will continue to look for this bear and once this bear is found the intent is to put it down.”
Wildlife officers say all it could have been prevented if the trash was handled properly.
“Securing your trash is the most important thing that people can do. Securing all of your food sources, certainly not feeding any wild animals, certainly not feeding bears or letting your food be available to them. That’s the most important thing to do.”
Wildlife officials say bear encounters aren’t just in Pitkin County. They’ve had issues in Grand Junction, Steamboat, and even the metro foothills.
Smiddy could be back at work as early as Tuesday.
Additional Information From Aspen Police
Please protect yourself and keep the Aspen bears safe by being bear aware. Additional information about bear encounters can be found online at aspenbears.com or by calling the bear hotline at (970) 429-1768.