On Saturday September 9, agents with Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) put down a sick boar black bear after the animal was found suffering from an infection and a severe intestinal issue "caused by consumed human trash." The incident took place in the ski resort town of Telluride, near southwest Colorado's San Juan National Forest.
“The bear could not digest food and was very sick,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Rachel Sralla. “It all comes back to trash, which we talk about too often when it comes to bear conflicts in Colorado. The reason we had to put this bear down was to end its suffering that was caused by eating indigestible trash.”
Members of the public had alerted CPW about the sick boar, which weighed approximately 400 pounds, earlier in the day. Officers then located bear, with assistance from the Telluride Marshall's Office, near a group of people wading in a river.
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"The bear acted feverish and had puffy eyes and discharge coming from its eyes and mouth," CPW stated in a recent press release. "CPW officers also determined it likely had severe abdominal pain based on their observations and from a video supplied by a resident of the building the bear was near. The bear displayed a humped position while walking and was reluctant to move."
According to CPW, the large black bear had become a common sight in the ski resort town in recent months. It's believed to be the same bear that was involved in a home invasion earlier in the summer, and agents have successfully hazed it out of public areas multiple times in the past. But the bear did not respond to similar hazing measures during the September 9 incident, CPW said.
"The bear bluff charged a CPW officer," the state wildlife agency wrote. "Based on the behavior and condition of the bear, CPW made the decision to euthanize the animal for human health and safety reasons as well as to prevent the bear from further suffering. The bear was killed the evening of Sept. 9."
A full necropsy later revealed a disturbing amount of human-produced trash inside the large omnivore's gut. CPW removed a plug of paper towels, disinfectant wipes, napkins, parts of plastic sacks, and wax paper food wrappers from its stomach. “This plug was accompanied by french fries, green beans, onions and peanuts," said CPW District Wildlife Manager Mark Caddy. "The small and large intestines were empty of matter. The intestines were enlarged due to bacteria in the beginning stages of decomposition, but we opened them up in several locations and found no digested food matter.”
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The unfortunate incident is an urgent reminder to residents and visitors in Colorado's bear country to properly secure trash, thereby minimizing human-bear conflict, the agency wrote in its statement. In 2023 alone, CPW has responded to more 30 human-bear conflicts in the San Miguel County, where the town of Telluride sits.
“We could not leave a sick bear like this knowing it was suffering and struggling to survive,” Sralla said. “When you have a very fat 400-pound bear, it will take it ages to starve to death. That’s a horrific way to die, decaying from the inside out for that long. As officers, we had to make an unfavorable call. It’s a call we wish we never had to make.”