Colorado Couple Arrives Home to Find Young Black Bear in Their Kitchen

by Jon D. B.

The young black bear used an unlocked door to enter the home, then rummaged through the kitchen before CPW officials arrived.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) are well-versed in black bear encounters. These intelligent, inquisitive bears share many neighborhoods with humans in the state, and bear-human conflicts are common as a result. The latest example comes from Teller County, Colorado.

This week, a couple came home to their Teller County home only to find a young black bear in their kitchen. Evidence showed the yearling used an unlocked door to enter, then began rummaging through the kitchen for food. Thankfully, the bear left the house of its own accord as the owners entered. Yet tragically, this story does not have a happy ending.

Habituated Bears Often Meet Tragic Ends

As is often the case with habituated bears, CPW officials chose to euthanize the yearling. Unfortunately, this particular young bear (who was previously tagged and identified) had entered a home before and regularly sought out human food sources.

“Imagine encountering a bear in your kitchen. If there is no clear exit available, a tragic confrontation could occur,” offers CPW wildlife manager for the Pikes Peak region, Tim Kroening. “We can’t risk that happening.”

As Kroening cites, “When a bear learns that human homes are a source of food, they become dangerous to people.”

When bear-country homeowners leave houses, sheds, trash cans, and car doors unlocked, bears learn how to open them. If food is smelled on the other side of an easily surmountable barrier, black bears will use every bit of their ingenuity to access it. And there’s nothing a bear loves more than easy food; something we humans can relate to.

“When natural food sources are scarce, as the smart, flexible eaters that bears are, they tend to spend more time near humans,” CPW carnivore and furbearer program manager Mark Viera said in June. “We certainly see a correlation between annual failures of natural bear food sources and years with higher human-bear conflict rates.”

Sadly, however, bears learn to associate human sources with this easy food and become a danger to both people and themselves. And this, more often than not, leads to the death of the black bear.

Yearling Black Bear’s Tale is a Common One

This yearling’s tale is, sadly, the perfect example. A previous CPW press release details the agency’s prior encounter with the black bear when he was just a cub.

Last summer, this particular bear was orphaned with a sibling when their mother was shot and killed by a poacher. Officials found both cubs near Woodland Park, Colorado near their poached mother. From there, the cubs went to a rehabilitation facility in which they would learn how to survive in the wild.

Then, CPW officers built the cubs an artificial den of their own at Pikes Peak. Once fitted with tracking collars while tranquilized, they were moved into the den. The hope was that each cub would emerge as wild yearlings in the spring of 2022.

This became the case for one cub, whose tracker showed him wandering 60 miles around Pikes Peak National Forest before returning to the den. The second cub, however, wound up in the Teller County home before his euthanizing.

Still, CPW officials maintain that euthanizing the yearling was the correct call. Relocating the young black bear would’ve led to another incident elsewhere, CPW’s Kroening believes.

“Colorado has become so densely populated that it is difficult to find a place to take a bear so that it won’t encounter human homes,” he continues.

“Urban bear conflict is one of our single biggest issues,” Kroening adds. CPW has received over 14,000 bear-related calls in the last three years alone. 325 of those bears (2.3%) were euthanized.

For ways to live bear wise in bear country, see our National Parks Journal: How to Be BearWise with Great Smoky Mountains’ Lead Wildlife Biologist next.