Fruita pizza bear killed

SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL/Fruita Police Department—A bear weighing 200 to 300 pounds was photographed during one of several recent sightings in Fruita

A black bear that was videotaped in a Fruita neighborhood eating pizza from a garbage can last week was put down Sunday night by a Fruita police officer.

The male bear, which weighed 200 to 300 pounds, was spotted by police officers hopping fences “like a cat,” traveling about a mile and a half in 30 minutes before officers cornered the bruin in a neighborhood just north of Shelledy Elementary School, Fruita Police officer Ross Young said.

“This is the same bear that we’ve been dealing with since (July) 24,” Young said.

Young said the bear had been spotted several times entering the city since last week and scaling backyard fences, but officers weren’t able to pinpoint it again until Sunday night.

The 6-foot-tall bear had its ears tagged, meaning wildlife officers previously had relocated it. It was euthanized by police   about 10:30 p.m. in the area of North Cherry Street and West Roberson Drive, Young said.

Wildlife officers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife had placed a trap for the bear in the Little Salt Wash area, but he hadn’t gone for the bait, Young said. He added that it might not have worked because some youths had been adding food to the trap.

“Our concern is because he’s already comfortable being in the city, if a child or a person got in his way, somebody could have gotten hurt,” he said. “Fortunately, nobody was injured.”

Young said officers contacted Parks and Wildlife officials after spotting the bear again on Sunday. The closest wildlife officer was in Rifle at the time. Young said officers received the OK from police higher-ups to shoot and kill the bear, if possible.

“We have gotten some push back,” Young said. “At the same time, our concern is if something would have happened even to somebody’s pet or if somebody would have gotten hurt, we would have taken a fire storm on this.”

Some comments on the Fruita Police Department’s Facebook page criticized officers for not having the bear relocated.

Bears that enter urban areas are relocated on first contact, if wildlife officers can capture them. However, according to Parks and Wildlife policy, a bear can be put down if it acts aggressively to people, returns to a particular area after being relocated, seems unafraid of people or is finding food in trash.

It’s unclear if another bear or bears are roaming in the Fruita area. Emergency dispatchers have received reports of bears in Fruita, possibly a mother with two cubs. However, dispatchers haven’t received any more calls about bear sightings since officers put down the large male bear Sunday night.

Bears that have been killed may be used for their meat if the bear hadn’t first been tranquilized, said Mike Porras, a spokesman for Parks and Wildlife.

Porras said outcomes vary for killed bears. Sometimes the meat is processed and given to people in need. Other times, the bear’s hide is used for educational purposes.

Wildlife officers have been handling calls virtually nonstop on bear reports as the weather has warmed this year, Porras said.

In April, May and June in the Grand Valley, officers euthanized seven bears and relocated six, Porras said.

Wildlife officials in the Aspen area were responding Monday to a report of a startled bear who slashed the abdomen and thigh of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy who was walking down a city alley to investigate a commotion. The woman received some stitches after being swiped, Porras said.

“She knew what to do. She didn’t run,” Porras said. “If you do happen to be attacked, fight back as aggressively as you can.”

Porras said the best way to keep bears from being attracted to urban areas is to keep garbage and outdoor food sources secure.

“We’re a long way from bear activity being over,” Porras said. “We’re having an active year overall and we’ve still got the fall months when bears go into hyperphagia.”

That’s a phase in the fall in which bears forage frantically, seeking extra calories before they head into hibernation.


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