Oh look, another bear story out of Colorado, where bears have been walking into people’s garages, breaking into homes, lumbering into hotel lobbies and basically getting way too close to humans.
Over the weekend a mama bear and her two cubs burglarized an Estes Park pizzeria — and they found the salami.
Antonio’s Real New York Pizzeria posted surveillance video to its Facebook page that showed the comedic caper. But the restaurant owners didn’t post the video for giggles.
They’re trying to call attention to Colorado’s growing problem as bears struggling to find food in their own neighborhoods are looking for food among humans.
Sometimes, those human-bear interactions cost the bears their lives. By midsummer alone, Colorado wildlife managers and homeowners had killed at least 34 bears after problematic encounters, the Denver Post reported.
Colorado bears are dying in record numbers, according to Mother Nature Network environmental news website.
In Boulder alone, 40 black bears were either killed or evicted from city limits between 2003 and 2015, according to MNN’s count. “That number is likely surging as humans — and their garbage — sprawl deeper into bear habitats,” the network noted.
On a single day in July, four bears were killed in the area around Durango, according to The Durango Herald. The area is known as a stronghold for bears. A Fairfield Inn & Suites west of downtown reported a bear hanging around its place for about a month; at one point it tried to walk into the lobby.
On that lethal day in July, two bears were shot by homeowners after the animals entered their homes; one of those bears entered through a second-story window, the Herald reported. Two others were tracked by wildlife officials and euthanized after one killed a llama and one killed some pigs and chickens.
Bears caught breaking and entering, or killing livestock, cross a dangerous line, wildlife officials said.
“Nobody is comfortable with what’s happening with bears, the largest surviving carnivores in the West,” the Post wrote.
“Some wildlife managers point to recent dry conditions and shortages of natural food that may be driving bears into cities. But there is evidence that some bears facing urbanization of their habitat are growing accustomed to eating human food in trash cans, campsites, cars and homes.”
In some parts of the state, wildlife offices received as many as 50 calls a day over the summer from people reporting problematic bear behavior, the Post reported.
One woman in Bayfield, Colo. reported a bear chasing her children. The bear was tracked down by dogs and killed.
Bears are getting way too comfortable around humans, wildlife officials worry, and some humans won’t leave the bears alone.
“We’re receiving more reports of bears investigating people, getting closer to people than we normally would expect,” Matt Thorpe, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager in Durango, told the Post. “They’re not demonstrating that natural fear of humans that we usually see.”
In July wildlife officials euthanized a 375-pound bear that spent five hours rummaging through a Colorado Springs home. The bear got into the home through a first-floor window that had been left open. Surveillance video showed the bear opening drawers and cabinets in the kitchen, looking for something to eat in the fridge and hanging out in the living room before sauntering off.
Nobody, Thorpe said, gets into wildlife work to put down bears. “My darkest days as a game warden have been those days when I had to put a bear down — especially if it could have been prevented if people were more diligent about securing trash and other attractants,” he told the Post.
People purposefully, or unintentionally, interacting with the bears makes his job that much harder.
A woman in Colorado Springs this month has panicked her neighborhood because she’s feeding birds in the area — and attracting bears at the same time, reported KKTV in Colorado Springs.
She won’t stop, even though neighbors have asked her to. The TV station filmed her scattering birdseed on the ground and placing peanuts in trees.
Hours later, one neighbor saw a bear reaching into the tree for the snacks.
Mother Nature Network felt pity for the bears that broke into the Estes Park pizzeria and applauded the owners for their public-service Facebook post.
“If you find it hard to resist the smells wafting out of your local pizza parlor, imagine the plight of a hungry bear — an animal whose astounding sense of smell is estimated to be about seven times sharper than that of a bloodhound,” MNN wrote.
“That’s good enough to smell dinner from more than a mile away. In some cases, bears have even been known to sniff out an animal carcass at the bottom of a lake.
Dead bodies and trash bins are one thing. But pizza? That doesn’t stand a chance of eluding a bear’s nose. While it may seem like a powerful gift, these days, that sense of smell, coupled with an empty belly, is more like a curse.”
The owners of the restaurant begged police not to shoot at any future scofflaws who might break into their kitchen.