Problem Bear Euthanized in Telluride
by Peter Shelton
Aug 02, 2012 | 1691 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Town Manager Orders Halt on Second Trap

TELLURIDE – The July 22 trapping and euthanization of a nuisance bear in Telluride has generated an emotional response, and the trap set for a second bear, believed to be breaking into vehicles, was ordered deactivated by Town Manager Greg Clifton, pending a discussion at the Aug. 7 Town Council meeting.

“It was my decision” to deactivate the trap, Clifton said this week. “I had heard enough feedback from council and Telluride citizens to think we should wait a bit and have a discussion.”

Clifton said Colorado Parks and Wildlife is “highly confident” that the euthanized bear, a 300-pound “older female cinnamon bear” who was a habitual offender, breaking into more than one home over the last two weeks, warranted euthanization under the agency’s two-strike policy.

Nonetheless, he pronounced himself “quite shocked that the bear was put down.

“This bear had not been tagged,” he said.

“But because they were very confident this was the same bear [implicated in] earlier break-ins, the two-strike policy can apparently become a one-strike policy,” he said of the Parks and Wildlife decision.

“The policy is not set in stone,” said Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joe Lewandowski. “If we have an animal that is hanging around a neighborhood, and is a threat to people and property, we have to put it down.”

The July 22 home break-in that triggered the euthanization took place on N. Pine Street. According to resident Chad Dillon, a bear had ripped a window from its frame and was poised to enter the house, at about 5 a.m., when he confronted the animal and chased it away.

Lewandowski said Parks and Wildlife set its steel-culvert trap on Wednesday, and caught the bear on Thursday night. “This bear had been doing the same thing over and over,”  he said of the bear’s aggressive efforts to gain entry. “When you have a bear that becomes habituated to human food, when you have this kind of aggressive behavior, you have to put it down.

“People say, why not relocate the bear? We try to do that when we can. But in this case, the bear was likely to get in trouble again. Bears can find their way back from long distances. It’s not as easy as dropping a fish in a lake.”

Telluride Chief Marshal Jim Kolar reported that some time after the first bear was trapped, two vehicles on S. Spruce Street were broken into. A second bear had torn “the rear window out of [one] car to get at some groceries, including meat, that had been left in the car. On Saturday morning a bear got its claws into a car side window that had been left slightly open and pried it out.”

And so a second Parks and Wildlife trap was set.

Clifton asked the Marshal to deactivate the second trap.

“It could be there’s a second problem bear,” Clifton said. “But it also could be we have a lot of bears in town. I think we should try to get people to change their habits.”

Both Clifton and Lewandowski believe the spring and early-summer drought conditions have  negatively affected the bears’ natural food supply of berries, nuts, grasses and insects. That and the animals’ natural, late-summer need to “pack on the calories,” in Lewandowski’s words, have led them to the easy pickings in town.

Bears have also been trapped recently in Ouray and in Dallas Meadows north of Ridgway. Ouray City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli said DOW wildlife managers trapped a bear on Third Avenue last week and told him there were “as many as five bears in town, including one that may be wounded in some way.” So, residents should be extra aware and take care with anything that would attract a bear.

“Telluride has a good ordinance,” Lewandowski said. “If people would follow that, we might not have to put down any bears.” Despite Telluride’s requirement for bear-proof garbage cans, the animals are finding easy access to human and pet food that has them coming them back for seconds.

And that’s what Clifton wants to talk to council about next Tuesday. “I’ve invited Jim [Kolar] to come. And I’ve invited DOW to send someone, though I haven’t heard back from them yet.”

Lewandowski has a laundry list of precautions for keeping the bears away. Bring your pet food indoors. Take down your bird feeders during the summer months. “The birds don’t need it this time of year. And bears get a big reward when they find one. Put them back up in November.

“If you can’t keep your garbage inside a garage or shed, at least wipe out your trash cans with vinegar every week or two. If you’ve got smelly bone scraps, like chicken bones, put them in a plastic bag and freeze them until the morning of your trash pickup.”

Nobody wants to see bears euthanized, Clifton said, a sentiment echoed by Lewandowski. “There are big emotions underlying this issue.”

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