Aspen police have received 604 calls regarding bears in the last few months -- about 400 more than last year.
And bears have broken into approximately 90 Aspen homes since the beginning of the summer.
Bears are scary beasts -- arguably the most frightening animals native to Colorado. And now that they seem to be more comfortable with invading our domestic spaces, we're dealing with a lot of side-effects -- a lot of, um, issues
When a mommy bear and her two cubs took up temporary residence
on the Hyman Avenue Pedestrian Mall back in September, it was all city police could do to keep the people safe -- from themselves.
Since the situation lasted off and on for about a week, people started showing up at the outdoor mall with lunch and folding chairs, ready to camp out for an hour and have some nature-fueled entertainment. Many tried to take selfies with the animals, even stepping within a couple feet of them. While bears are inherently dangerous, it was the onlookers' behavior that was most concerning, since they were putting themselves in harm's way and refusing to obey the law enforcement's safety instructions.
Watch the Aspen Police Department's
public service announcement here:
Then there's the problem with bear spray.
Since there's an influx of bears, people are (smartly) carrying bear spray and keeping it close-by. That makes total sense, especially with the 90-some homes that bears broke into! But bear spray can also be the cause of mishaps:
In July, a female tourist leaned against her backpack and accidentally triggered the can of bear spray
inside it -- while on a public bus. The release of the capsaicin pepper spray into the air meant the bus had to pull over and call paramedics to the scene. Only two people were affected (which was lucky), but the misfire certainly threw a wrench in the plans of 40 people who were headed to see Maroon Lake.
Bear spray struck again recently, on November 26, when an Aspen resident used a bear spray can
(conveniently lying nearby) to apparently fight a neighbor with whom he had an ongoing feud. Though he said it was in self-defense, the man was charged with misdemeanor assault -- because the pattern of bear spray remnants throughout the hallway outside the units and inside the neighbor's apartment indicated that the firing of the can was a little more aggressive and malicious than he had claimed.
So there you go. It's simple math. When you have three times more bears in town, you get many more bizarre bear incidents, resulting in more bear spray, which culminates in dangerous bear spray situations. Bears = danger. No matter what angle you take on it.
Lucky for the good citizens of Aspen, however, the number of actual bear incidents has dropped in the last couple of weeks, leading authorities to believe that the animals are finally in hibernation. And we're safe for another winter.
Do you have any bizarre bear-related stories to share? Weigh in below! And upload your bear photos here
Featured image of people taking pictures of bears in Aspen, Photo credit: Halli Burnsworth, via Aspen Police's Facebook.