ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – When Officer Dave Rosselot checks in with his three other co-workers for the night shift with the Aspen Police Department, they already know that September means they’ll be dealing with bears.
“I’d say for this time of year,” Rosselot says, “anywhere between 5 to 10 bear calls any given night.”
And the officers have a plethora of stories to prove it. Like the time Rosselot found an industrial sized refrigerator yanked out of a wall by a bear, or numerous other ways bears have broken into homes to get a quick meal.
“Obviously this year we have not seen the same food conditions, the natural food conditions that we saw for bears last year,” Mike Porras with Colorado Parks and Wildlife told CBS4 this summer. “We’ve had some significant bear activity not just in the roaring fork valley but in Grand Junction and all over western Colorado.”
Through August this year, the Aspen Police Department has fielded 388 calls about bear activity. That is significantly more than the 49 they received in 2013. They took 209 calls last month alone, more than four times the number of calls than they received in the first eight months of 2013. In 2012, the police received 1,040 calls.
|Bear calls in Aspen by month for 2013 and 2014|
Aspen’s police officers are the first line of defense for the town.
“If possible we’re going to try and get them out of the area, whether that’s any verbal hazing,” Rosselot said. “We’re only going to haze bears if they’re actively in someone’s house or they’re actively going through a trash can.”
Officers carry bean bags that can fit in 12-gauge shotguns, but stress that’s one of their last alternatives.
“Once those bears get into trash they’re coming back guaranteed,” Rosselot said. “We don’t want this to become an oncoming issue because then the bear human encounters are going to increase, that’s never a good situation for the bears or the citizens.”
Police admit they’re not called every time a bear is seen in town, so the 209 figure is certainly higher.
This summer, two bears have been euthanized and another is still on the loose after swinging at an off-duty Pitkin County Deputy. The Deputy was treated with stitches and recovered.
“Some negative reinforcement to hopefully educate them this isn’t a safe place for them and tell them to go elsewhere hopefully back into their natural habitat,” Rosselot said.
But he knows the bear problem in Aspen isn’t going away.
“It can get a little scary,” Rosselot said.