Hunting bears won’t keep them away |

Hunting bears won’t keep them away

John Gardner
Vail, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” More bears are wandering into the towns and neighborhoods of the Roaring Fork Valley. The Division of Wildlife has had to kill more bears, too.

This has some residents wondering if issuing more bear hunting licenses would be a good way to reduce the number of bears searching for food in town.

Not likely, says the Division of Wildlife.

Hunting is a way to manage wildlife populations, but it’s not a solution to decrease the number of bears in Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, the agency says.

In 1992, Colorado residents voted to eliminate the spring bear hunting season because they were worried cubs would be orphaned. At that time the Division of Wildlife also increased fall bear-hunting licenses, agency spokesman Randy Hampton said.

“Without control on the population, be it any other critter as well, it reaches a point where conflict, disease, collision with vehicles and other incidents sky rocket,” Hampton said. “We utilize means to manage critters on what habitat will support.”

Colorado has a statewide black bear population of between 8,000 and 12,000, Hampton says.

In 2006, 454 black bears were killed by hunters statewide. More than 8,000 hunting licenses that year.

“Bear hunting is a niche market,” Hampton said. “If you look at the national statistics, there has been a decline in the number of people participating in hunting altogether. Bear hunting is a much narrower field of hunters.”

But Hampton expects hunters’ to kill more bears this fall because drought conditions have diminished the animals’ food supply.

“The bears will be more spread out during a good food year,” Hampton said. “Hunters who know where to look for bears will have better luck.”

Bears have less room in western Colorado due to development and energy exploration, Hampton says.

“We’ve developed a lot of land,” Hampton said. “Our communities have grown, more roads and the amount of people that recreate in the open lands has increased, the amount of people in the forests now have increased. All of that, along with the energy development in the area, leaves the bear habitat decreasing all the time.”

Black bears typically go into a state of “hyperphagia” in the fall ” a feeding frenzy during which they drastically increase the amount of fruits and nuts they eat in preparation for hibernation.

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