A bear works over a dumpster near the intersection of Castle Creek and Midnight Mine roads near Aspen to find food on July 17, 2021. The security bar was in place but the bear either reached between the lids or bent the lids to get at trash. (Scott Condon, The Aspen Times)

By Jason Auslander, The Aspen Times

While the number of bears in Aspen has been manageable so far this summer, a lack of natural food sources could change that as fall approaches, an area wildlife official said.

The below average snowpack and runoff in the spring and little rain in the early summer meant berries that should be producing about now, as well as late summer and fall foods such as acorns, grasses and oak, did not get the early proper moisture and are not providing food, said Matt Yamashita, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Glenwood Springs.

“A lot of the natural food sources aren’t doing what we’d hoped they’d do,” he said. “The late rains might be too little, too late.”

Acorns and some berries appear plentiful in river corridors in the Roaring Fork Valley and in irrigated areas where humans live, he said. But that poses problems.

“Those are areas where we don’t want them,” Yamashita said.

In years without adequate natural food, bears begin to come down from the hills and into town in mid-to-late August in search of food. That can cause problematic interactions with humans, including bears breaking into homes and cars and parking themselves in large pine trees in the downtown core area.

Yamashita said residents should brace themselves for that to happen this year.

“We’ll probably see bears come down into town this month,” he said.

So far, CPW has had to euthanize two bears in the Upper Roaring Fork Valley this summer — one about two weeks ago and one early in the summer, said Kurtis Tesch, CPW’s district wildlife manager for the Aspen-Snowmass area. Both bears had been breaking into houses, he said.

Aspen Police have logged 78 bear-related calls since April, said Lara Xaiz, a community resource officer with the Aspen Police Department. Those include one in late July reporting a bear that ripped a window open and entered a home.

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