PITKIN COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife euthanized a sow and four cubs after the bears got into a home outside Aspen.

According to CPW’s Rachael Gonzales, the bears entered the home around 5 a.m. on Aug. 20 while a family was sleeping. The residents called 911 to let authorities know of the threat. Pitkin County officials arrived but the bears had already left the home.

The bears managed to tear up the kitchen and leave scat inside the home but no one was hurt.

CPW set a trap for the bears in the case they returned and they did the next day, Gonzales said. The sow was trapped and when the cubs tried to get in the same window they had entered the day before, it was locked. Wildlife officers caught the cubs, tranquilized them and removed them from the property. Gonzales said all five bears were euthanized at another location.

Gonzales said the bears were considered dangerous as soon as they entered the home with humans inside, which is why wildlife officers decided to euthanize them. She explained the difference between a nuisance bear and a dangerous bear is the close contact with humans. A nuisance bear gets into the trash but isn’t threatening; a bear that has entered the environment of humans is considered dangerous and will be euthanized to protect against further human threats.

CPW interviewed the residents of the home the bears got into and surrounding residents to discover the bears had possibly been in other homes before, which added to the level of danger the bears could impose.

Gonzales said the most likely reason the bears got into the home was to find food. She said a late freeze caused a food shortage for the bears and it’s the time of year they pile up before hibernation.

Bears fattening up for winter

Colorado Parks and Wildlife said bears have entered hyperphagia — the process when bears eat and drink nearly nonstop as they fatten up for hibernation — and consume roughly 20,000 calories a day.

The end of summer into early fall is the time of year bears are more active in searching for food and could venture into more human-populated areas.

Bears have an amazing sense of smell and can literally smell food five miles away, CPW said. Bears are very smart, and remember where they got food – once they find it, they come back for more.

How to bearproof your area

CPW said there are steps humans should take to bearproof their space so the animals don’t come near looking for food.

  • Don’t feed bears, and don’t put out food for other wildlife that attracts bears. 
  • Be responsible about trash and bird feeders.
  • Burn food off barbeque grills and clean after each use.
  • Keep all bear-accessible windows and doors closed and locked, including home, garage and vehicle doors.
  • Don’t leave food, trash, coolers, air fresheners or anything that smells in your vehicle.
  • Pick fruit before it ripens, and clean up fallen fruit.
  • Talk to your neighbors about doing their part to be bear responsible.

You can find more information about living within bear territory and what to do in a bear encounter on CPW’s website.