Colorado wildlife officials euthanized a sick black bear that had eaten so much trash that the wad of garbage blocked its intestines, causing the bear to starve.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers killed the bear Saturday in Telluride after receiving reports of a sick bear near the trail along the San Miguel River, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the agency. The officers determined the bear was ill because it had discharge coming from its puffy eyes, walked in a humped position and seemed reluctant to move.
The bear’s stomach was plugged with a wad of paper towels, disinfectant wipes, plastic sacks and wax paper food wrappers, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The plug of trash was keeping the bear from digesting food. Its intestines were empty, except for decomposing bacteria.
Wildlife officials also found french fries, green beans, onions and peanuts in the bear’s stomach.
“We could not leave a sick bear like this knowing it was suffering and struggling to survive,” CPW Area Wildlife Manager Rachel Sralla said in the release. “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.”
The bear was well known in Telluride, and officers previously had hazed it from public spaces. On the river trail last weekend, however, the bear did not run from officers trying to shoo it away and instead bluff-charged one of the staff members, officials said.
Officers believe it was the same bear who entered a house earlier this summer.
“The bear could not digest food and was very sick,” Sralla said. “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.”
Telluride city code requires people to lock animal-resistant trash carts.
“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.
Get more Colorado news by signing up for our Mile High Roundup email newsletter.