Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers euthanized a 400-pound black bear in Telluride last weekend and found the animal had begun to starve because its digestive tract had become clogged with human trash.
The incident serves as yet another reminder for residents to ensure that trash bins and other potential food sources are not left unsecured.
The bear was known around Telluride, and although it had responded to hazing measures in the past, it did not do so when approached by officers this past Saturday night. The officers noticed the bear was acting feverish and displayed other signs of illness.
“When our officers noticed that it had that humped over position that it was walking in, and it was real lethargic, it wouldn't move too far at one time. They could tell it had abdominal pain,” said CPW spokesman John Livingston.
The observations prompted the decision to euthanize the animal. Upon performing a necropsy the following day, officers discovered that its intestines had no food in them and were plugged by trash.
“The removal of the stomach and intestines showed that the bear was starving due to a plug of paper towels, disinfectant wipes, napkins, parts of plastic sacks and wax paper food wrappers in the pylorus,” said CPW District Wildlife Manager Mark Caddy in a news release. “This plug was accompanied by french fries, green beans, onions and peanuts.”
Bryan Peterson, the executive director of Bearsmart Durango, said that bears have ample food in the Durango area at the moment, but noted “there have been bears getting into trash in town as of late.”
“I’ve seen all types of plastic in local bear scat around here, and that’s a horrible way to die,” Peterson said.
Livingston encouraged stewards of industrial dumpsters – especially those used by restaurants – to ensure that the anti-bear mechanisms are being used properly.
“Bears that have found a food reward from a trash can before will continue to look for that food reward,” he said.
Anyone who notices evidence of a bear breaking into trash should report it to the La Plata County Bear Hotline 247-BEAR (2327).