Black bear euthanised in Colorado after intestines became blocked with paper towels and wipes

Officials advise residents living in bear country to secure their trash cans to avoid potential conflicts with the animals

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 19 September 2023 00:02 BST

Related video: Black bear spotted wandering through backyard in Bucks County

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials were forced to euthanise a sick black bear this month after the animal suffered "severe intestinal blockage" after eating human trash.

The bear was found in Telluride, where it was suffering from an infection and was unable to digest food, according to CPW Area Wildlife Manager Rachel Sralla.

After the 400-pound bear was killed, trash items including paper towels, disinfectant wipes and food wrappers were found inside the bear's digestive tract.

CPW issued a news release warning that trash is a major driver of human conflicts with bears in Colorado.

“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,” Ms Sralla said in the statement.

Officials found the bear after receiving a report that the animal appeared to be in distress.

"The bear acted feverish and had puffy eyes and discharge coming from its eyes and mouth. CPW officers also determined it likely had severe abdominal pain based on their observations and from a video supplied by a resident of the building the bear was near," the statement said.

Officials noted the bear was humped while it moved, but it generally showed a reluctance to move at all.

CPW agents believe the bear was the same one that entered a home earlier in the summer.

Bears frequently raid human trash bins when they can't find food or if they find the trash bins to be a more accessible means of finding sustenance.

Human encroachment into bears' habitats increases the likelihood of bears both losing their natural food sources and having encounters with humans, including eating their garbage.

A collection of trash items found inside a 400lb black bear that had to be euthanised in Telluride, Colorado

Ms Sralla said the incident is a tragic reminder that residents and business owners in areas where bears live must secure their trash bins to avoid conflicts. CPW said it has responded to 37 human-bear conflicts in San Miguel County in 2023.

In Telluride, securing trash containers is actually mandated by local ordinances.

“Telluride has an ordinance to address bear in trash issues,” Ms Sralla said. “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.”

She said the CPW decided to put the bear down to spare it a long, painful death.

“We could not leave a sick bear like this knowing it was suffering and struggling to survive,” Ms Sralla said. “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.”

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