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(SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo.) — A gang of car burglars have residents of Colorado’s Snowmass Village on edge and the mountain town’s police force on high alert after reports of at least 14 cars broken into.

The suspects are proving elusive to capture but easy to identify, namely by the prints they leave behind: big, furry paw prints.  The suspects in this crime drama are a mother bear and her three cubs that have been reportedly breaking into cars in the town near Aspen over the past week in search of food, the Aspen Daily News reports.

The bears were caught red-handed Saturday night when the unidentified owner of a car they were breaking into opened the door to find them inside.  The mother scampered away but when police arrived two of the cubs were still in the car and captured on-camera by quick-thinking Officer David Heivly of the Snowmass Village Police Department.

Most of the break-ins came by the bears simply opening an unlocked car door, prompting the local transportation department to issue a plea to residents.

“Bears are breaking into cars in Snowmass Village,” the Town of Snowmass Village Transportation Department posted on its Facebook page Sunday, along with the photo of the cubs.  “Please lock your cars and try to clean all traces of food out of them. On second thought, sell your car and ride the Village Shuttle. Beats having to clean it. Seriously! Lock your cars. These cute little guys lives depend on you to act responsibly in bear country.”

Wildlife officials confirmed to the Aspen Daily that they have set up two traps in the village to try and capture and relocate the bears.

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“We’re trying to get a hold of her before she breaks into any homes,” Kevin Wright, a wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, told the paper.

Officials say the bears’ meandering into human territory is most likely a result of the area’s drought conditions that are pushing them out of the wilderness in search of food.  Many of the break-ins have occurred near a mall by a mountain where officials believe the bears are roaming.

The town is erecting “Bear Alert” signs on Wednesday and distributing “Bears in Your Area” brochures.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


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