DENVER — A bear that became famous after it was tranquilized and fell from a tree at the University of Colorado died when it was hit by two cars after returning to town, likely looking for food.
A photograph captured an image of the 280-pound black bear in midair, its arms and legs spread, after it was tranquilized April 26. It was relocated 50 miles away to the mountains and was struck on U.S. Highway 36 – which connects Denver to Boulder – around dawn Thursday.
The spot where the bear was killed was a little more than 2 miles from the university's campus. Both cars were towed from the scene and one driver was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, the Colorado State Patrol said.
Wildlife officials believe the unusually warm and dry climate in Colorado has left limited sources of natural food for bears, prompting them to wander into town.
"We are absolutely concerned if it continues to be dry we're going to see more bears," Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said.
Churchill said there is a high rate of bears returning to the Boulder area in particular because of the lack of natural food sources.
When bears find food in an area, they adapt to that environment thinking it's a home range, even when there are people nearby. They often return, especially if there are no other male bears around they have to fight for food, water and space, Churchill said.
The bear was identified by a tag placed on him after he was tranquilized. Officials track bears that are captured after coming close to people. Bears that are considered a nuisance – meaning they become habituated to certain areas that create a public safety issue for people – are sometimes euthanized.
On Monday, a bear wandering around a suburban Denver neighborhood was also tranquilized and returned to the wild. A bear that appeared unwilling to leave the city of Craig in northwestern Colorado was euthanized Sunday.
Churchill stressed that people need to keep their trash secured and remove other food sources, such as bird feeders, from their yards.
"We really need everyone to do what they can to remove those attractants," she said. "It really means the life of a bear."