A camper shot and killed a bear Monday after it reportedly charged at the man and his dog at a camping area outside of Nederland.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Jason Clay said the man was in a dispersed camping area near Gordon Gulch north of Nederland when he heard his dog barking at about 6:45 a.m. Monday.
The man said when he left his camper, he saw a bear chasing his dog. The man called his dog over, and said the bear then began to charge both of them.
Clay said the man then shot the bear, a male weighing about 260 pounds, when it got within about 10 to 15 yards of him.
While it is illegal to shoot a bear to protect a pet, Clay said that because the man was also protecting himself he will likely not be ticketed.
“In this case, it became a human safety issue as it soon became him defending himself against the bear,” Clay said.
Clay said that the man actually had a clean campsite, but said the bear had broken into the man’s vehicle several days earlier and found some trash. Clay said officials believe the bear had also recently been checking out other campsites and campers in the area.
“If you go camping and leave a mess around, just because a bear doesn’t come in during your camping experience, when bears get rewarded at campsites they remember where they can find food and they will keep going back to those areas,” Clay said. “This camper came along and by all accounts had a clean campsite. But the bear came in looking for more food and by chance there was an encounter and what turned out to be a dangerous situation.”
Clay said the fact that the bear had become accustomed to getting food from campsites could also explains its unusually aggressive behavior.
“Bears are super strong and super powerful, but also super lazy,” Clay said. “Normally, when a dog starts barking at a bear, it will scare the bear away. That behavior was a little bit abnormal, for it to chase that dog.
“But when they become habituated to food at campsites, they’ll act to defend what they think is their food source, and it can change their natural behavior and they can become aggressive to protect what they think is their food.”
Clay said officials do not believe this is the same bear that led to a closure of the Lost Lakes area, which is west of Nederland.
That bear has been involved in conflicts at the campground since 2017, and has entered unoccupied tents, retrieved people’s unsecured food and has shown little fear of humans.
Since officials believe Monday’s incident involved a different different bear, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service will keep the Lost Lakes closure in place.
“It’ll reopen when both agencies believe there is not a threat to human safety from that bear,” Clay said.
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