Aspen bears relocated

Aspen isn’t alone in its spate of bear problems. Crested Butte Town Marshal Tom Martin said the bear problem “has never been worse than it is this summer.”

There, bears have made dens in abandoned sheds and learned to open “bear-proof” plastic trash containers by tipping them over and jumping on them until they pop.

Martin said six problem-causing bears were euthanized last week in Crested Butte.

“We might have a generation of bears that have grown up feeding on garbage,” he said.

“The relocation program might be a thing of the past.”

Troublesome bears are trapped by the Division of Wildlife and in many cases released to new locations in the mountains.

However, the relocation program has its inherent problems, DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said. Colorado has between 8,000 and 12,00 black bears, with most of the good bear habitat already occupied.

“There aren’t any places that don’t already have bears,” Hampton said. “Bears are very territorial, and if you put a bear on top of another bear, one of those is going to die or be chased off.”

And it’s all too likely to head back to the nearest garbage can.

In a study sponsored by the DOW, Colorado State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, doctoral candidate Sharon Baruch-Mordo is radio-collaring bears around Aspen to learn more about a bear’s everyday behavior.

Using GPS-equipped radio collars, bears trapped around Aspen are monitored every 15 minutes. Bears that are relocated are followed to determine if or when they return to the same trouble spot.

“If (relocation) is just to keep a bear from returning to town, you might be setting yourself up to fail,” Baruch-Mordo said. “Aspen is great bear habitat.”


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