ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – The closure of 11 campsites near Aspen this weekend due to bears follows a string of bear-related encounters that have worried officials.
The bears ripped into tents for food and reached bags hung from trees at the Crater Lake campgrounds near the Maroon Bells, southwest of Aspen, in the last week. In response, the U.S. Forest Service closed the sites until further notice.
There are no restrictions on day hiking or picnicking around Crater Lake, but ranger Karen Schroyer with the Aspen-Sopris District said all backpackers are now required to keep all food and garbage in bear-resistant containers.
“Visitors need to realize the long-term impact of their actions,” Schroyer told the Aspen Daily News. “Leaving any kind of food or attractants improperly stored in bear country can lead to serious human injury or death, and leaves Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials with little choice but to have the bear or bears put down.”
On Saturday, the Aspen Times reported that a bear broke into the kitchen at a bed and breakfast and consumed food from two refrigerators and a cabinet before an officer scared it off with a beanbag gun. The bear returned twice last week but was unable to get inside the Snow Queen Victorian Lodge. Police laid traps but haven’t captured it.
On July 28, a bear injured a sheriff’s deputy during an attack in Aspen. She fought the bear off and wasn’t seriously hurt. The bear was likely attracted by trash in bins that weren’t locked — which is finable offense in Aspen.
During late July, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office fielded an increase in bear-related calls. Even with a wet winter and no late frost — two conditions that support bear populations — food is still scarce.
“We haven’t even reached the time when bears start preparing for hyperplasia,” Mike Porras of Colorado Parks and Wildlife told CBS4 last month. “That’s when their 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.”
Bears are generally euthanized after coming into contact with humans three times.
The city of Aspen has required residents use bear-resistant trash containers since June 1, 2010.