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The environment desk at Aspen Public Radio covers issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the state of Colorado including water use and quality, impact of recreation, population growth and oil and gas development. APR’s Environment Reporter is Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.

Aspen police propose law to protect wildlife from humans


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.

Aspen native Elizabeth Stewart-Severy is excited to be making a return to both the Red Brick, where she attended kindergarten, and the field of journalism. She has spent her entire life playing in the mountains and rivers around Aspen, and is thrilled to be reporting about all things environmental in this special place. She attended the University of Colorado with a Boettcher Scholarship, and graduated as the top student from the School of Journalism in 2006. Her lifelong love of hockey lead to a stint working for the Colorado Avalanche, and she still plays in local leagues and coaches the Aspen Junior Hockey U-19 girls.
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