By Michael Abeyta

ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) — A black bear entered an Aspen home through the front door early Friday and severely injured the homeowner, officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said. CPW used dogs to track the bear and euthanized it a few hours later.

(credit: CBS)

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CPW officials said the homeowner was taken to Aspen Valley for surgery and then transferred by ambulance to St. Mary’s hospital in Grand Junction. The injuries are not life-threatening.

Randy Hampton with CPW told CBS4 the bear turned a lever-shaped handle on the homeowner’s door to get inside. The homeowner was in the living room at the time, heard some noise and went to check it out. The bear swiped the homeowner’s face and neck.

He says it’s not surprising the bear was able to get into the home, “We have seen situations where with lever style door handles, bears can lean on those and get in if doors are locked.”

He says it’s all about getting a quick meal for the bears and if they find a neighborhood with lots of food they will keep coming back for up to a year.

“Bears learn very quickly and if they learn that they can get food inside a home they’ll go from door to door and just try the door lever,” said Hampton.

A black bear from an undated file photo. (credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife)

He also says humans who live in bear country need to work together to prevent bears from getting into food or garbage. A misstep by a neighbor or visitor will have consequences.

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“It doesn’t have to be a homeowner; it can be a neighbor that does something or somebody three houses away. The bear gets used to that neighborhood, the bear starts to learn, and then these types of situations occur.”

CPW used dogs to track the bear. Just before 1 p.m., officials confirmed the bear had been found and euthanized.

“Based on the direct and clear trail that tracking dogs quickly followed, along with the physical description of the bear from witnesses, we’re certain that we got the offending animal,” said Matt Yamashita, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Area Wildlife Manager, who oversaw the response operation. “We never like to have to put an animal down but the protection of the public is paramount once a bear begins entering homes and responding aggressively toward people.”

They said the bear was collected and will be sent to CPW’s lab in Fort Collins for testing.

CPW officials suspect it may be the same bear that has rummaged through trash in this area in the last two years. Previous attempts to trap it and haze it have failed.

Image of a bear in Aspen in August, 2011 (credit: CBS)

CPW investigated three human-bear attacks in the Aspen area in 2019. This is the first reported incident this year.

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Michael Abeyta