A black male bear in Telluride, Colo., had to be humanely euthanized because it was starving and in distress from consuming human trash, including food wrappers, paper towels and other garbage that deprived it of nutrients and choked its intestines, officials said.
The bear, which weighed about 400 pounds, was put down by Colorado Parks and Wildlife on Sept. 9 because it “showed signs of infection and was suffering from a severe intestinal blockage caused by consumed human trash,” according to a news release from CPW.
A full necropsy of the bear showed its intestines were fully blocked by wipes, paper towels, food wrappers, onions, French fries and other garbage, CPW said.
“The bear could not digest food and was very sick,” CPW Area Wildlife Manager Rachel Sralla said.
CPW received a report of a sick or injured bear near the river trail in Telluride in the early afternoon Sept. 9, the agency said. CPW officers and the Telluride Marshal’s officers monitored the bear and kept it away from humans. A nearby resident also provided video footage of the bear’s behavior.
The bear was acting “feverish and had puffy eyes and discharge coming from its eyes and mouth,” CPW said. It was in a humped position while walking and seemed unable to move, indicating severe abdominal pain, officers said.
CPW said the bear was known in the town and to law enforcement, which on several occasions had to scare it away from public areas. But officers weren’t able to chase the bear off Sept. 9, and said the bear tried to intimidate officers.
The agency said it made the decision to euthanize the bear that evening “for human health and safety reasons as well as to prevent the bear from further suffering.”
Officers performed a necropsy on the bear the following morning and found trash clogging several organs, CPW said.
“The removal of the stomach and intestines showed that the bear was starving due to a plug of paper towels, disinfectant wipes, napkins, parts of plastic sacks and wax paper food wrappers in the pylorus,” CPW District Wildlife Manager Mark Caddy said, referring to the opening from the stomach into the small intestine. “This plug was accompanied by french fries, green beans, onions and peanuts.”
Caddy said the bear’s small and large intestines were inflamed from decomposing bacteria, and that they were empty of digested food matter.
Officials with CPW have responded to 37 reported human-bear conflicts in Colorado’s San Miguel County in 2023, the agency said.
On X, the website formerly known as Twitter, commentators blamed tourists for the rubbish. But CPW said the message needs to also be aimed at local residents.
“This was a town bear getting residential trash and dumpsters,” CPW wrote. “So also encourage your neighbors and town businesses to secure their trash.”
Telluride has laws and fines addressing the issue of bears getting into trash, and CPW has asked the community for better compliance.
“We need the community to follow that ordinance to be a better neighbor to our bears and prevent this type of incident from happening again,” Sralla said.