Officials Tell Colorado Residents to Be "Mean" to the Bears
Famously dubbed the Rodeo Drive of the Rockies, Aspen, Colo., is home to gourmet restaurants, fine jewelry stores, luxury hotels and, for a few months in the summer, bears.
"Bears are emblematic of the Aspen community," said Aspen resident Mark Goodman. "They are wild, beautiful, fabulous creatures that are awesome, yet you keep your distance ... the beauty and the fear is what makes it so fascinating."
Fascinating, but this year, it's a dangerous problem. Aspen police report a nearly tenfold increase in the number of bear sightings in town. Wildlife experts think that a moist spring caused a berry shortage, forcing hungry bears to wander into town in search of food.
"Once a bear gets into a human environment they quickly realize the fried chicken you or I had for dinner last night and may have put in the trash can is highly caloric," said Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.
Bears need nearly 20,000 calories a day to bulk up before hibernating and feed for 20 hours a day to get it.
Officials are now concerned that across Colorado too many wild bears have developed a tasted for human food and are getting used to people. They are now actively telling residents to be, literally, mean to the bears. Yell at them, throw rocks and if they charge you, stand up to them.
"You want to be as big, as large as possible, and you always want to fight back with a black bear," said Hampton. Black bears tend to be timid and are generally not aggressive.
"When they are utilizing our environment as their habitat in that manner, they are also very likely to defend that territory, " said Hampton. "And so it can be a dangerous situation when bears get to the point where they are breaking into homes to get food."