Bears and Wildlife

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cartoon of moose-head-butt a human
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Aspen is centered in prime bear habitat, and therefore, the Aspen Police Department frequently is summoned to situations involving bears. Bears are wild animals and are unpredictable. While they prefer to avoid human contact, many bears have become used to spending some of their time in Aspen. Habituated bears will enter urban areas in search of human food sources. So, it is common for bears to venture into the middle of downtown Aspen during both day and night. 

This is also becoming increasingly true for other wildlife such as moose, mountain lions, elk, and deer. 

Wildlife is a key component of Aspen’s environment, and it is up to us to take the appropriate precautions to keep them safe. Removing in-town attractants is the most effective way to reduce bear activity in town. To better secure attractants, the Aspen Police Department is working with cooperating agencies and businesses on education, prevention, and enforcement.

There are many things that humans can do to reduce interactions with bears and other wildlife.

Living With Bears

Once bears find an easily accessible food source, they don’t forget and they’ll come back for more. There are many actions you can take year-round, and especially in the early spring, to deter bear activity in and around your home.  

Lock Your Trash

  • Make sure that your trash receptacles are latched, secure, and bear-resistant – it’s the law in Aspen. 
  • Wildlife-resistant refuse containers are required for curbside pick-up. Trash can only be left outdoors if it is stored in a wildlife-proof refuse container or wildlife-resistant dumpster. Learn the difference between the two.
  • Put trash and recycling bins out for pick-up after 6 a.m. on pick-up day and store them by 7 p.m. on the same day. This includes compost.
Bear walking in yard

Failure to comply with the City of Aspen's Trash Ordinance may result in fines up to $1,000:

  • 1st Offense: $250 fine
  • 2nd Offense: $500 fine
  • 3rd Offense: $1,000 fine and mandatory court appearance

Questions? Environmental Health and Sustainability offers free waste assessments and recycling training for residents and business owners interested in learning more about proper waste, recycling, and food waste disposal. Register here.

Remove Attractants

  • Remove bird feeders.
  • Clean BBQs.
  • Keep pet food indoors.
  • Close garage doors.
  • Secure home and vehicle windows and doors.
  • Don’t leave food or trash inside your vehicle.
  • Pick fruit before it ripens and clean up fallen fruit.

If the bear remains and you feel it presents a threat, call the non-emergent dispatch line (970-920-5310) or 911 in an emergency.

Because a bear’s sense of smell is 100 times more sensitive than a human’s, an open window can mean they can smell food in a refrigerator, from outside the house, or even outside of a car. 

  • Lock ground-floor windows.
  • Lock cars.
  • Do not leave food in your car.

Other Wildlife Encounters

  • Never approach or gather around wildlife, including their babies, which can be considered harassment of wildlife.
  • Never feed wildlife.
  • Leave babies alone.
  • Leash pets.
  • Stay calm, don't run.
  • Back away slowly.
  • Blow a whistle, clap your hands, and make other loud noises. 
  • Make yourself look big.
Don't be that guy

Keep Your Distance

Human-generated activities can cause severe stress for wildlife and could provoke them to take action to protect themselves. If you encounter wildlife when you're out and about, remember that they are wild animals.


  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Fight back if attacked.


  • If it charges, run! Try placing an object such as a tree between you and the moose.

Mountain Lions

  • If it behaves aggressively, throw sticks, stones, or other objects. 
  • Fight back if attacked.
moose photo

More Info

Colorado Parks & Wildlife and Pitkin County Open Space are our partners in wildlife management practices. Learn about living and visiting bear country at Bear Wise.