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Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials euthanized a 400-pound bear that consumed so much human trash that its intestines were blocked and could no longer digest food, officials said Wednesday. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials pulled several wipes from the stomach of a sick Telluride black bear after it was euthanized Sept. 9. The wipes, along with other human trash, caused an intestinal blockage, preventing the bear from digesting food, CPW said. (Photo provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Wipes, paper towels and plastic food wrappers were found in the stomach and intestine of the black bear after it was euthanized Saturday, according to CPW. The bear showed signs of infection, with puffy eyes and discharge coming from its eyes and mouth, and officials believe it had severe stomach pain. 

“We could not leave a sick bear like this knowing it was suffering and struggling to survive,” CPW Area Wildlife Manager Rachel Sralla said in a written statement. “When you have a very fat, 400-pound bear, it will take it ages to starve to death. That’s a horrific way to die, decaying from the inside out for that long. As officers, we had to make an unfavorable call. It’s a call we wish we never had to make.”

The agency also cited “human health and safety” as a factor in deciding to euthanize the bear. 

CPW received reports of a sick or injured bear near the river trail in Telluride in the early afternoon Sept. 9. The bear humped over as it walked and was reluctant to move, the agency said. 

The bear was well known to Telluride residents and believed to be the same bear that broke into a home earlier in the summer, CPW said. The bear didn’t respond to hazing and in one instance bluff charged a CPW officer.

Hazing is used to try to change the behavior of a bear when they start coming too close to people. Officials often fire nonlethal rounds meant to sting the bear without injuring it, and yell to discourage undesirable behavior.

During a necropsy, wildlife officials found a plug of paper towels, napkins, parts of plastic sacks and wax paper food wrappers in its stomach and intestines.

“This plug was accompanied by french fries, green beans, onions and peanuts. The small and large intestines were empty of matter. The intestines were enlarged due to bacteria in the beginning stages of decomposition, but we opened them up in several locations and found no digested food matter,” CPW District Wildlife Manager Mark Caddy said. 

Officials called the bear’s suffering and death an urgent reminder to properly secure trash to avoid bear conflict. CPW has responded to 37 reported human-bear conflicts in San Miguel County in 2023. 

Telluride municipal code requires any trash container to be secured with a lock. Failure to comply with the wildlife protection ordinance can result in a $250 fine for the first offense, $500 for a second offense and a summons to appear in municipal court for a third offense. 

“Telluride has an ordinance to address bear in trash issues,” Sralla said. “We need the community to follow that ordinance to be a better neighbor to our bears and prevent this type of incident from happening again.”

Olivia Prentzel covers breaking news and a wide range of other important issues impacting Coloradans for The Colorado Sun, where she has been a staff writer since 2021. At The Sun, she has covered wildfires, criminal justice, the environment,...