Agencies seek help to quell Aspen bear trouble
ASPEN, COLO. – State wildlife officials are looking for volunteers to help teach the public how to avoid conflicts with bears in Aspen, where 20 were killed last year after threatening people.
Another tack to try to ease troubles between bears and people in the mountain resort town has raised the concerns of one environmental group. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has proposed almost doubling the number of bear hunting licenses in the region, including the Vail and Glenwood Springs areas, to about 1,100 from 630.
“What I’m afraid they’re trying to do is hunt their way out of this,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians.
Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said the agency is using different measures to keep bears and people apart. The state is working with local officials to recruit the volunteers.
“Hunting in and of itself is not going to solve the human-bear conflicts, nor is it designed to,” Hampton said.
The hope is that hunting will help manage the population. Hampton, however, said the total number of bears killed by hunters averages only 5 percent of the approved quota.
“So 1,100 licenses do not equal 1,100 bears,” Hampton said.
State and local wildlife officers and police have been battling bear troubles in the Aspen area, considered prime habitat for the animals, the last several years. Clashes have increased when the bears’ natural food – berries, acorns – are scarce because of late freezes or drought.
Some bears that wander into homes or go where they shouldn’t are relocated, but ones considered aggressive or dangerous are killed. A bear was killed last August after it injured an Aspen woman who was sleeping on her deck.
Aspen and Pitkin County officials have increased fines for not using bear-resistant trash cans and dumpsters.
Keefover-Ring said the underlying problem is enforcing laws requiring bear-resistant trash bins so the animals stop identifying people with easy-to-find food. Bears need to be chased out of town and individual problem bears need to be removed, she added.
Keefover-Ring said her group would “raise a ruckus” if the state wildlife division pushes to dramatically raise the number of bear hunting licenses.
The state Wildlife Commission is expected to consider the number of bear licenses in May. The change would take effect in September.
On the Net:
Colorado Wildlife Division: http://wildlife.state.co.us/
WildEarth Guardians: http://www.wildearthguardians.org/