Once a bear finds food it can remember the location for up to three years, and it will keep going back.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said that's what drove a bear to return to a residential area in east Colorado Springs and that's why they had to euthanize her.
The female black bear, approximately two years old, had been caught April 2, near Highway 115 and Lake Avenue, spokesman Randy Hampton said Wednesday. Parks officials tagged her and released her in Las Animas County, more than 150 miles south of Colorado Springs.
"She made her way back, somehow she just knew where she had found food before," Hampton said.
The bear was caught Tuesday off East Pikes Peak Avenue, east of North Academy Boulevard. Realizing they had dealt with her before, they made the difficult decision.
"We have a strict two-strike policy in Colorado," Hampton said. "Research shows these animals will return over and over again, because they have learned where the easy sources of food can be found. It's a part of our job we don't like, but we have to protect the public's safety and much as wildlife's and we won't back away from that obligation."
The bear became habituated because people in the area were lazy about the way they stored their trash, Hampton said. Once a wild bear figures out where it can find food without much effort, it will keep returning.
"The best case scenario is when bears go back to their natural habitat, away from people, but it didn't work out this time," Hampton said.
The euthanized bear was different from the bears spotted at the Edelweiss restaurant, or by Bear Creek Park in recent weeks. There have been no sightings of those bears since, and wildlife officials prefer it that way.
According to Hampton, the female bear was of breeding age but did not have any cubs.
"It's so easy to forget we are surrounded by wildlife because we live in residential areas, but the public has to be willing to make a difference by being responsible and not leaving their trash out so animals can get to it," Hampton said.