Aspen City Council agreed to more than double the proposed fines in a new city wildlife harassment ordinance brought forward by the Aspen Police Department.
The Aspen Times reports the police department recommended fines of $100, $250 and $500 in the ordinance. But council members instead elected Monday to make it $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second and $999 for the third, along with an appearance in municipal court.
It became clear to local police last summer that educational efforts were not enough to protect the public and bears. This past September, gawkers on the Hyman Avenue Mall surrounded a bear and her two cubs for days.
Despite officers securing the perimeter and handling crowd control, the bears came down after nine hours in a tree only to be chased by a mother and her child hoping for a photo. It caused the mother and cubs to be separated, and therefore stressed.
The Times reported that Audrey Radlinski, a community response officer with Aspen's police department, said she would have absolutely fined the woman.
"The public has a false sense of security in an urban environment," she told the council.
Councilman Bert Myrin suggested the price increase in fines, saying a $100 "selfie" with a bear is a drop in the bucket for a tourist who is paying $500 a night for a hotel room.
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