History on the bear killed in a vehicle collision in Littleton

LITTLETON, Colo. – A black bear was hit and killed in a vehicle collision near South Kipling Parkway and West Belleview Avenue Friday morning. The bear was one Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers had handled and gave green ear tags – No. 416 – to six years earlier.

On Aug. 21, 2015, wildlife officers responded to a Jefferson County property, in the Pleasant Park Corridor of Conifer, after a landowner reported having their goats killed by a bear. The report stated that up to five bears visited the property and black hair was found on the fence line.

Two days later, on Aug. 23, wildlife officers trapped a bear with brown hair. Suspecting the incorrect bear was trapped, wildlife officers relocated the bruin, gave it the green ear tags with No. 416 as the unique identifier to associate it with that handling. It was released far away in western Clear Creek County.

Ty Petersburg was the wildlife officer who responded and trapped the bear at the site of the livestock conflict. Petersburg is now CPW’s Assistant Chief of Law Enforcement. He shared his memories from this bear’s relocation.

“If memory serves, it was a young bear that I caught and he took some effort,” Petersburg said. “I moved him to Grizzly Creek in Clear Creek County, which is near Grays and Torreys Peaks, up toward the Continental Divide. I do remember that I tried to get video of the release with a GoPro.

“I was trying to secure it to the bars on the front of the trailer, pointed into the bear trap. The bear had woken up from the tranquilizers at this point, so I was trying to wrap the little arm attachment for the camera around the vertical bars with him awake inside. He got mad and swiped at me, catching the camera before I could get it set, and it rolled around in the trap with him for a while.”

Based on records, this bear was relocated to mitigate conflict. Relocation is one option to address human-bear conflict, but it isn’t usually wildlife officers’ first choice and isn’t a fix-all solution. Securing trash, protecting livestock and removing attractants are all better measures that everyone can take to avoid and prevent conflict.

To the best of our knowledge, this bear has stayed out of trouble ever since and in this case its relocation would be considered a successful effort.

“Presumably, he’s lived most happily-ever-after in Clear Creek until very recently,” Petersburg said.

Based on known information and the records, this male bear was likely eight years or older. It weighed in the ballpark of 150 pounds when picked up by a wildlife officer Friday morning.

While it is difficult to know why this bear decided to travel into Littleton, it is possible this bear was kicked out of its territory in the high country by a younger bear. Because it was older, it may have been more willing to take risks and travel further in search of food, especially during the months leading up to hibernation, going across busy roads and highways where it eventually traveled down in elevation into the metro area.

Wildlife officers had received a report two days earlier of a bear near the location it was hit on Friday in Littleton.

“The events from this morning are sad and we hope the person associated with the accident will be okay,” said CPW Deputy Regional Manager Kristin Cannon. “When we live on the landscape with bears, these things are going to happen. We can’t always avoid them, wildlife is going to go where it wants to go even across our busy highways and streets. If you want to keep bears safe, be sure you drive alertly and safely, scanning for wildlife, and do your part not to attract bears into town by securing all attractants.”

This was one of two roadkill bears Denver metro area wildlife officers were responding to Friday morning. The second was on Tomah Road northwest of Larkspur.

From 2000-2020, CPW records indicate that on average 106 bears across the state are killed annually from being struck by vehicles. The highest roadkill year in that timeframe was in 2020 with 181 while the lowest was 36 bears killed on our roadways in 2005.

To lessen the risk of bears getting hit by vehicles, wildlife officials bring up two key points. One is not enticing bears into town by leaving your trash unsecured, having bird feeders out, or other food sources that bears can access. Secondly, driving at safe speeds and looking out for wildlife along roadways, particularly at the dusk and dawn hours, may help you to avoid a collision with wildlife.