Aspen police are asking city council to approve a new law aimed at keeping people from harassing wildlife. It comes amid growing concerns about public safety — and the health of local bears.
Recent dry summers have meant less natural food at higher elevations for bears and other wildlife. That can draw the animals into town looking for meals, just as there’s an influx of visitors who aren’t familiar with bear safety. Community Response Officers frequently break up crowds of people gathered around bears; in one case last summer, a mother bear and two cubs had to be relocated after they were chased through downtown Aspen by people trying to get photos.
Aspen police say they don’t have an effective way to enforce wildlife protection laws. They are asking city council to adopt a new ordinance to prohibit harassing wildlife. It has some teeth; there's a proposed $100 fine for the first violation. For the third strike, that increases to $500 and a mandatory court appearance.
In a memo to council, officers said they hope this would reduce the number of bears who are euthanized each year; that number has more than tripled in the past three years, with 16 bears killed in Pitkin County in 2017.
The concerns and the proposed ordinance are not just about bears; interactions with other wildlife, like moose and foxes, are on the rise, as well.
City council discusses the proposed law at a meeting Monday at 5 p.m.