A restaurant manager in Aspen managed to frighten a large black bear out of a dumpster late Sunday, but the bruin then chomped his leg, leaving four deep puncture wounds, and ran away.
It was the third such attack in Aspen this year, prompting Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials to warn about the dangers of unsecured dumpsters.
As Colorado Springs officials consider imposing a mandate on the west side, requiring bear-proof garbage bins or restricted times to set out the trash, that message hits home.
“The bears are becoming so accustomed to humans that it’s just a matter of time before there’s an incident,” City Council President Richard Skorman said Monday evening.
“People need to realize there is a danger both to them — and especially to bears.”
Bear-proof trash cans cost a few hundred dollars, said Skorman, who hopes trash collection companies will cover part of that cost.
But one west side resident proposes a different plan.
Rick Hiatt suggested it on nextdoor.com, saying he might be unable to attend the city’s hearing on the issue at 6 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St. (Another will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Fire Station 18, 6830 Hadler View.)
Hiatt wrote, “Bears go to dumpsters because it’s the most reliable source of food, especially when they’re desperately hungry. Same with city trash cans. Well, why not give them what they want (and ‘need’ before winter) — a daily diet of fat-rich food. And that would be ‘suet’-like bricks of fat and anything else experts know bears need in their diets.
“But place them in designated areas on public lands — away from neighborhoods. They would learn fast on where to go and where not to go. ... It still seems to be a cost-effective, safe and humane way to keep bears and their cubs out of dumpsters and out of city neighborhoods.”
Because bears need to gain a lot of weight to get through winter hiberation, they can be dangerous when foraging in the fall, Hiatt wrote. “So let’s help them out — instead of keeping it a dangerous/destructive scenario for both humans and bears.”
At least seven residents applauded his idea. And the latest Aspen bear victim might embrace that plan too.
“By attempting to scare the bear out of a dumpster, the man exposed himself to significant danger,” said area wildlife manager Matt Yamashita in a news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “It is likely the bear felt cornered and it reacted aggressively. As we have warned over and over again, this is the exact scenario that can happen when people and bears interact, and why it is so dangerous for bears to be around people.”
A check of the man’s puncture wounds confirmed that the bear did weigh 350 to 400 pounds, as he reported, the news release said.
On May 27 in Aspen, a 230-pound bear bit a woman who was hiking on the Hunter Creek Trail. CPW officers said they killed the same bear several days later. A necropsy revealed its stomach was full of birdseed obtained from bird feeders, the release says.
And on July 27, a 500-pound bear swiped at a man at the Aspen Meadows Resort, tearing his clothing and scratching his arm. Several witnesses reported that the bear had previously approached other people, exhibiting no fear. CPW officers are still searching for that bear.
“If people do not take this issue seriously, I believe it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed,” Yamashita said. “We as a community have been lucky that injuries to humans this summer have been relatively minor, but these attacks should be taken as a serious warning to take action now.”
In Colorado Springs, the council could vote on the trash ordinance this fall, putting it in effect by spring. He said he is confident it will pass.
Skorman, who lives on the west side, said he’s had a few bear encounters too. Once, a bear got into his kitchen through a screen door. Another time, he said, he rounded the corner of his house to find a bear on its back legs growling at him.
“I have seen too many examples. You can go up and down our street and see garbage cans turned over there constantly.”
The Gazette’s Ellie Mulder contributed to this report.