Last month the US Forest Service closed down 11 campsites at Crater Lake near Aspen. The closure came after increased reports of bears destroying tents and stealing food. It was not too long ago when drought conditions and few food sources drove bears into the City of Aspen, causing a record 1,040 bear conflict calls in 2012. To avoid a repeat of the crisis two years ago, state wildlife officials have increased the number of bear tags offered to hunters over the past few years, and are considering offering more.
“There’s a lot of people out there that want to hunt bears,” Kevin Wright, district wildlife manage with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, 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.”
The agency originally considered hiring sharpshooters to cull the bear population, but decided against it.
Officials say the bears are not to blame. Rather, it is the carelessness of visiting campers that caused the bears to become more bold in their interactions with humans. Forest rangers said that some campers would leave food wrappers scattered near their tent and keep food in unsafe storage containers, and generally lacked backcountry knowledge. Some even reported firing off warning shots to protect their camps, which officials say may not be all that effective in scaring off bears.