Bear breaks into Colorado jail

DURANGO, Colo. (KOB) – The La Plata County jail experienced a first this week — a successful break-in. The offender is still on the run, described to have brown fur, four paws and weighing more than 250 pounds.

“What we are set up is to keep people from breaking out, not breaking in and this is the first one that I am aware of,” said Sgt. Dan Bender of the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.

Before dawn on Tuesday, a north gate at the La Plata County Detention Center was the scene of a jail break-in. Up and over is how La Plata County Sheriff’s deputies say the bear gained access.

 “Climbed over the fence and crossed some barbed wire, and dropped into the compound behind me,” Bender said.
Bits of evidence still cling to the barbed wire at the top with tufts of fur among bent barbed wire. But in this case, as soon as he was in, jailers wanted him right back out.

“Jailers tried to electronically unlock the gate in hopes it would push it open, but the bear couldn’t figure that out,” Bender said. “It was a really big bear.”

When deputies tried to shoo the bear away, it climbed a tree and hid out there for a while. LPCSO said the bear scampered off into the nearby hills.

The detention center and sheriff’s office are both in the Bodo Park part of Durango, backing right up to a wildland area.

“We have been able to see deer on a regular basis. Moose wander through. This is the first bear I’m aware of,” Bender said.

Bear experts say the number of bear-human conflicts in the area has skyrocketed this summer.

“If it stays dry like this I think we are in for a tough summer for bears and bears are in for a tough summer too,” said Joe Lewandowski, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Durango. “We have house break-ins, just since yesterday, there have been three bears that have had to be put down in the Durango area because they have broken into houses.”

This bear and the others are just doing bear stuff, and sources of food and humans are pretty synonymous when dry, hot weather means natural food is scarce.

“If we get some rain that will help a lot, bears do prefer natural food,” Lewandowski said.