Wildlife official: Aspen restaurant employee justified in shooting bear

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ASPEN, Colo. — A Colorado Parks and Wildlife official said Wednesday that a restaurant employee was justified in shooting a bear early Saturday morning.

Spokesman Mike Porras said an employee at the Sundeck restaurant at the top of Aspen Mountain shot a yearling male bear about 7 a.m. after it entered the restaurant through a locked door.

The employee stumbled upon the bear, and used a shotgun and revolver after it charged, Porras said. Officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife responded and found the bear under the deck suffering from the gunshot wounds, then euthanized it.

After an investigation, wildlife officials felt the employee was justified in shooting the bear. Officials say lethal force should not be the first course of action a person should use with a bear, but they also understand the right to protect.

Porras said the bear was still a threat to human health and safety, and there had been reports the bear was in the area previously.

Aspen Skiing Co., which owns and operates the restaurant, had been in contact with Colorado Parks and Wildlife about the bear before the shooting, the Aspen Times reported.

Aspen Skiing spokesman Jeff Hanle told the newspaper that employees tried to scare away the bear Saturday morning without success.

“Eventually it charged our employees, and one of them was armed,” Hanle told the newspaper, adding the bear had shown aggression on earlier visits. “It had broken into a locked freezer before. It seemed adept at getting in.”