A 51-year-old hiker fought off a bear that shred his tent open and bit him several times through his sleeping bag early Saturday near Maroon Bells, the second bear attack in two days, authorities say.
The man, whose name has not been released, was taken to Apen Valley Hospital where he was to undergo surgery, officials said. His condition was not immediately known, said Mike Porras, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The man was sleeping in his tent at about 1 a.m. at the Minnehaha Gulch campsite area above Crater Lake when the bear ripped through the tent and bit the man in the lower leg, according to Levi Borst of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department.
The bear repeatedly bit the man in the leg through his sleeping bag, Borst said. He fought the bear off and called to two camping companions. Despite many attempts to scare the bear away, it lingered in the campsite after the attack.
The man’s friends used bandages from a first aide kit they had packed in to stop the bleeding. They then began a slow decent in the darkness to Maroon Lake where they contacted sheriff’s deputies with a personal GPS transmitter, Borst said.
Members of Mountain Rescue Aspen rushed to the area, met the injured man along the trail and escorted him to the trailhead. He walked out on his own power and was later taken by ambulance to the hospital.
The man was planning to climb the North Maroon later this morning.
Today at least two wildlife experts will investigate the scene where the bear attacked the man and collect evidence, Porras said. They will interview the victim in the hospital and his two companions, he said.
The officers will track down the bear and may destroy it, but that depends on the circumstances, Porras said.
“At this point we just don’t know,” Porras said. But most often any bear that injures humans is hunted down and killed. In this case, the attack was unprovoked, Borst said.
The Saturday attack was just the latest of a series of bear encounters across the state.
A bear also attacked another camper and destroyed a tent near Crater Lake at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, said Pat Thrasher, spokesman for the White River National Forest. The camper received minor leg injuries, he said.
Forest officials say the victim and a companion had properly stored food to avoid such a confrontation.
Three weeks ago a 13-year-old boy was asleep in his tent near Twin Lakes when a black bear broke into the tent and bit the child in the leg. The bear was found and destroyed, Porras said.
“Bears are large and powerful and when they are looking for food they can be very determined,” he said. People should double-bag garbage, he said.
But another run-in with a bear also prompted the U.S. Forest Service to prohibit tents and soft-sided trailers at a campground in Mesa County. The Bureau of Land Management officials likewise closed the Mud Springs campground until Sept. 2 after bears raided campsites.
Wildlife officials believe the Mesa County bears were drawn to campers’ food partly because berries they depend on didn’t ripen soon enough because of a long winter. The hope is that bears will switch to their natural food supply and leave the area.
One camper reported that a bear didn’t show any fear of her or her dog even after she yelled at it and hit it with a shoe.
But usually bear attacks are very rare.
“You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than being bitten by a bear,” Porras said.
Typically the Maroon Bells, Maroon and North Maroon peaks, which are both over 14,000 in elevation, are treacherous for mud slides and loose rocks, not for brushes with wildlife.
The bear attack could add to the the mystique of one of Colorado’s most scenic peaks, nicknamed the Deadly Bells after eight people died in a series of accidents in 1965.
Last August, Spencer James Nelson, a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a member of its nationally ranked ski team, died after being struck in the head by a dislodged rock and tumbling 200 feet.
He was climbing with a team of six in the Bell Cord Couloir, 13 miles southwest of Aspen.
Source: Denver Post