DOW kills bear that attacked boy camper in Twin Lakes

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenJuly 16, 2011
Colorado Division of Wildlife officers killed a bear they believe attacked a young camper Friday morning in Twin Lakes, over Independence Pass and in between Aspen and Leadville.

The black bear struck during the dead of night, biting 13-year-old Rick Voss in the leg at 3:30 a.m., awakening him and his 15-year-old cousin, who was in the same tent. The fight put up by Voss, who hails from Aurora, Colo., combined with the arrival of nearby campers scared the animal away. The teenager was in Twin Lakes with his family for the Colorado Bowhunters Association annual jamboree, according to state wildlife officials.

The bear is said to have ransacked an outside cooler in the adjacent area of the camp. But a Colorado Division of Wildlife investigation determined there was nothing inside the boy's tent that would explain the bear's actions.

Voss is recovering at Children's Hospital Colorado where he hold The Denver Post in an interview on Friday night that he “felt extremely lucky” and that he “didn't like being shark bait.”
Black bears like these are out in force near mountain campgrounds, wildlife officials warn.
Colorado Division of Wildlife

A photograph of Voss taken many hours after the attack depicts him reclining upright in a hospital bed, smiling, alongside his cousin, Brandon Landis, who was unharmed in the attack. The boy's left leg is wrapped in white medical fabric from his ankle to his quadriceps, with most of the bandaging around his knee. State officials said Voss will need to receive continued treatment for his injuries.

Employing 10 tracking dogs, state and federal wildlife officials followed the beast's scent and hunted down a 200-pound male black bear matching the offending animal's description three quarters of a mile from where Voss was attacked. The bear was killed Friday evening.

"We manage wild bears for a healthy and thriving population," said Dan Prenzlow, a regional manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife and State Parks. "But when an individual bear enters a tent and attacks a sleeping person, we manage that animal to protect the public safety."

Bears in Colorado appear to have grown bolder in their interactions with humans in recent years. When weather or human encroachment spoil their natural food sources, the animals often come down into cities and neighborhoods, scavenging for food and taking advantage of unsecured trash canisters. Human-bear encounters in the Aspen area occur regularly, sometimes requiring police to respond to ransacked vehicles or kitchens, and other times the encounters produce little to no drama. The situation turned violent, however, in the last couple of years. One bear broke into a home through locked French doors and clawed a woman in 2009. Another scratched a woman sleeping on her deck. That same year, a large black bear broke into a man's home and swatted him in the head causing injury.

Meeting a black bear in the national forest is not unusual in Colorado's high country, but those encounters are typically awe-filled glimpses into nature in action and rarely do they end up like the fatal mauling of a man in Yellowstone. That bear was a grizzly, also called the North American brown bear, which is a bigger, and far more dangerous animal that is found in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Wyoming and Canada but not in Colorado.

Still, black bears have killed people in Colorado.

When camping or any time humans are in bear habitat, officials stress that food and garbage should be securely stored in bear-proof containers and kept in the locked trunk of a vehicle.

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