Part of being a conscientious traveler is knowing where you're going and who you're sharing your surroundings and environment with. Here in Aspen, we share our environment and surroundings with so many of Mother Nature's creatures. That's part of what makes the mountains -- and Aspen -- so special. As we switch gears to spring, temperatures warm, and more than just human visitors start to venture into town, making sure we're conscious of how we're interacting with these creatures and our environment is important.
The Black Bears that make their home in the Aspen and Pitkin County area generally hibernate during winter and start to "wake up" come spring. For the most part, they still have food stores saved up from their collecting in the fall at first, but when they start to run out or are lured toward town with the smells of something better, human/bear interactions can occur.
Bears are generally just as frightened of you as you are of them. Most of the below tips are common sense, and not meant to create the idea that an army of killer bears are on the prowl! We love that we share our home with these beautiful creatures and we want them to be safe and free from harmful human behavior just as we want visitors to be conscious of how they interact with the Aspen environment to prevent bear encounters. In a sense, we are visitors in their home and should be as respectful as we would want visitors to be in ours.
HOME / LODGING TIPS
When visiting from locations where the only threat of wild animals getting too close is possibly a rogue raccoon, there are a few things to know when temporarily residing in the high country.
It's important to remember that although they may appear scary, bears are just looking for food, and NO, they do not consider humans food! They have a very good sense of smell and trash cans that are left outside without proper locking mechanisms are what they hone in on. When checking in to your lodging, make sure to pay attention to or inquire about proper trash maintenance. Most condominium complexes have a system that properly stores trash with bear-proof locking mechanisms. All homes will have bear-proof receptacles as well and will either be stored in a garage or properly out of the way of potential bear travel.
Making sure trash is correctly disposed of and stored is the number one way to prevent bear encounters where you're staying. And it's for the sake of the bear as much as you. Bears can become conditioned and addicted to the unhealthy "people" food of trash. Once they get a taste, they become unusually determined to forego the healthy natural diet found in the wilderness and search for human trash. This isn't good for their biology or how they then must be treated by wildlife professionals.
Remembering to clean your BBQs after use so as not to leave food residue is important as well to prevent bears smelling and wanting what you had for dinner.
When exploring all the amazing trails and natural beauty Aspen has to offer, there are a few procedures to both prevent bear encounters and follow wilderness etiquette.
When camping, be sure you have a bear-proof cooler and always store food in bear-proof containers out of reach in a hard-sided vehicle is one option or high in a tree with ropes. Make sure you clean your fire pit and it's free of food residue and never bring food into your tent. In the event you slip and a bear is attracted to your campsite, it's best they stay clear of you and your tent.
When camping and hiking, make sure you pack out EVERYTHING you bring in. Areas people frequent will become places bears visit and revisit if anything so much as a granola bar wrapper is accidentally left. Bear bells can be helpful to wear to prevent encounters and the noise of groups of hikers will frighten bears away as well.