Bears gone wild? Local bruins cause night chaos across town

Donuts attracting bears to cop shop?

The community is doing such a good job in thwarting bears looking for food in Crested Butte that the bears are now having to get creative.



You might say the low hanging fruit has been picked… so now they are going after it anywhere they can, including parked cars—which is exactly what happened early Monday morning when a bear was attracted by the scent of fruit left in a car on the 700 block of Whiterock Avenue.
Now the bears in Crested Butte may have to be relocated or probably destroyed as a result of the continuous chaos.
In the case of the car break in, Crested Butte Chief Marshall Tom Martin says, “the windows weren’t broken. The only logical conclusion is that the bear opened the door and got in and then the door closed behind him.”
Martin said the bear did “significant” damage to the inside of the car. When the action started about 2:30 Monday morning, the horn went off. The owner of the car went outside to investigate the problem, opened the door and found himself “face-to-face with a black bear. Both were a bit shocked and the bear jumped out of the car and ran away,” Martin said.
The next night, a bear went straight to the police.
Maybe it was the donuts; maybe the bear was simply taking advantage of a door left ajar but the bear broke into the lobby of the Crested Butte cop shop/Marshal’s Office and KBUT radio early Tuesday morning. The trashcans in the lobby were ransacked, and the bear left before being spotted by the marshal on duty.
And then, again early Tuesday morning, a bear got into a local garage at a Belleview residence and became trapped when the door closed behind him. He caused a lot of damage in the garage and to the items inside.
At least three other cars have been the scenes of bear attacks since the beginning of the week. A bear also woke up a Whiterock Avenue family as it tried to break a garage window. “That bear has been in the garage three nights in a row,” said Martin. “It’s a good news-bad news situation in that the easy pickings from the garbage in town has gone away, but now the bears have to get more creative.
“They are a pain,” Martin continued. “They are wild animals and we had one up a tree in Totem Pole Park last week. There were people directly under the bear with their five-year-old kids taking pictures. It’s crazy. It seems like every night for the last couple of weeks, we are dealing with bears. And it is no longer just in the alleys because the alleys aren’t a place for an abundant food source anymore. They are getting into cars and garages.”
Part of the problem is that a generation of bears born in Crested Butte doesn’t know any other way to find food. And that may cost those bears their lives.
Chris Parmeter, district wildlife manager with the Colorado Department of Wildlife in Gunnison says a bear will stay with its mother for about a year-and-a-half. That is a time of learning and bears are pretty smart. “If a bear was born in town and grew up eating from dumpsters, he probably doesn’t know any better,” Parmeter said. “They haven’t been taught where the berry patches are or how to hit the salmon. Bears have to be taught the time of year to go to the North Fork and go to the acorn patches. Unfortunately, some of the bears in Crested Butte probably get taught to go to the dumpster behind the chicken place.”
Parmeter credits the community’s bear-proofing measures with reducing the problem. He said a few years ago there were probably six or seven problem bears causing problems in Crested Butte.
“If you look back, it’s half of what it used to be before the bear-proofing ordinance was passed,” he said.
Martin said the education of the public about bear problems in town has worked. The community has stepped up and bear-proofed the town garbage cans and Dumpsters. But this has made for some hungry bears that aren’t afraid to spend hours trying to open a trashcan.
Martin believes there are three main bears causing the havoc in Crested Butte. There are two smaller ones that could be between two and three years old. There is another bear that weighs about 350 pounds.
“The big one might have been born and raised in Crested Butte,” said Martin. “He’s probably been here six or seven years. We think he wanders around up here from Skyland to Crested Butte to Mt. Crested Butte.”
Parmeter explained that the DOW tries its best to handle bear problems without killing the bears.
“The first step is to get people to be bear-proofed and that has happened in Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte,” he explained. “The second step is the hazing where the marshals and police try to chase them out of town and shoot them with rubber bullets and such. We’ve been hazing them for years but the bears seem to figure it’s worth the price of the food.”  
“The third step,” Parmeter continued, “is trapping and removing the bears if everything else fails. The ability to relocate bears depends on the bear. For example—a young bear, maybe under three years old, has a chance to be relocated to suitable habitat and not come back, but there isn’t a lot of space out there to relocate them to. A small young male bear will probably get killed by a bigger bear that controls the territory.  The larger, older bears will either come back to town or bounce from town to town to town and look to keep dumpster diving.”
Parmeter says three bears in the last two years have been relocated from the Crested Butte area. But bears are not adverse to travel, so relocation is being used less as a solution.
“We had a bear in Gunnison a month ago and he was tagged. He had been trapped in Winter Park last fall, hauled over to the Douglas Pass area in the north part of the state. Then he was spotted in Gunnison and then found in Aspen just a couple of days later. It’s becoming evident that trapping and hauling them somewhere else and hoping they live happily ever after is a farce.”
And that does not bode well for the bears causing mayhem in Crested Butte this summer. “Unfortunately, I’m afraid that some of the bears that grew up in Crested Butte may have to be destroyed,” Parmeter said.
Given the activity in Crested Butte, and given the community effort to bear-proof the town, Parmeter said the DOW would be taking steps to remove the pests. “I have the trap up there now,” he said. “We’ll try to pull the big one out of town. The brother of the one I took out a couple years ago, we’ll try to trap him as well. Those two will probably be destroyed because they are so habituated. If we try to just move them somewhere else, it will be just trading a problem to another community.”
Meanwhile back in Crested Butte, Martin said, the effort is paying off.  “For the most part, I’m very proud of the community,” Martin said. “The community has done the work to help alleviate the bear situation.”

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