Two hunters camped just miles outside of Aspen, Colorado had a close nighttime encounter last week when a bear attempted to enter their tent, only to be pushed away. According to KUSA, the hunters were visited by a bear three times on Thursday night near a region known for its escalating bear conflicts. During the last encounter, the bear ripped open one side of the tent and had to be fought off by the hunters. Thankfully, nobody was hurt.
To officials with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, it is not a surprising incident. The US Forest Service had to close down 11 campsites in the Aspen area in August due to an uptick in bear conflicts with campers. In the same month, police in the city of Aspen responded to 209 bear calls as the hungry bruins moved into town looking for food. Officials frequently blame “inexperienced campers,” especially those who have left food out in the open or strewn trash behind. Another factor may be that Colorado’s bear population has been on the rise.
A recent study by wildlife officials found that bear populations have exploded in many areas, and in some places by more than double their previously-recorded numbers. For years the department believed that about 10,000 to 12,000 bears lived in the state, but a survey using hair snares may indicate that the actual number is significantly higher.
“I was expecting the numbers to be higher but not twice as high,” biologist Jerry Apker told the Post Independent. “We were so surprised and taken aback by the densities that we got.”
Wildlife officials are now encouraging more hunters to harvest bears, especially near the Crater Lake area near Aspen. The popular camping spot is still expected to be off-limits to campers until next year, and officials are considering closing other areas as well.
“There’s a lot of people out there that want to hunt bears,” Kevin Wright, district wildlife manage with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, previously told the Aspen Times. “We’re hoping over time that can help. We’re trying to suppress the population, so we’ve got more licenses out there.”
Now it seems that the hunters will have to be careful of where they camp as well. Wildlife officials said that the bear involved in Thursday’s encounter may have become accustomed to scavenging food from campers in the past.