ASPEN, Colo. – Wildlife officers are looking for a bear that forced its way into a home in the Rocky Mountain ski resort town of Aspen and attacked the homeowner, and may have been behind other break-ins this summer.
The unidentified woman suffered deep scratches to her back and chest when the bear struck at her late Monday but she didn't have to be hospitalized, said Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Hampton said the bear forced its way in through French doors that were closed but not locked. Based on how it entered the house and its description, officers believe the same bear may have entered and tried to break into other homes in the area. They plan to euthanize the bear if they find it.
"Bears that break into secured homes and bears that are aggressive toward people are too dangerous to relocate," the division's area wildlife manager Perry Will said.
Bears are normally tagged on the first run-in with humans and relocated. Only if they threaten humans a second time are they usually put down.
Aspen police and wildlife officers have been busy with bear calls all summer. Hampton said finding a bear in a car or a house — either because it broke open a door or walked in through an open door — is a daily occurrence.
Aspen, a magnet for the rich and famous, also happens to be built in some of the best black bear habitat in North America.
Hampton said the resort town has one of the most aggressive campaigns to educate people about living in bear country, including the danger of not securing trash or leaving bird feeders outside. He said the city is also urging residents to lock their doors in the relatively low-crime community. However, he said even if a few people don't cooperate, it's impossible to keep the bears at bay despite all those efforts.
In Monday's case, wildlife officers say the woman was in her home at about 10:10 p.m. when she passed by the entryway on her way to her home office. She told them her dog began barking and then she was confronted by a large bear. She screamed and then turned to open the front door to get the bear to leave and the bear struck her, scratching her. She fled to a bedroom upstairs and called police. The bear remained in the house for a short time and left as police responded.
Hampton said no food or trash that might attract a bear was found around the woman's house. However, he said once a bear finds food in a house they will likely try to get into other houses in the hopes of finding more.
"Somewhere, someone started this bear on this path, either through ignorance, they didn't know any better, or they didn't care," he said.