June 11, 2014

Executing Bears in Colorado

I later wrote a prequel to this post: "The Short, Footloose Life of Bear 389."

If you hunt bears legally in Colorado, you are governed by a couple of pages of regulations. But if you just want to shoot one for the crime of  investigating your garbage, go right ahead. All you have to do is report the shooting within five days.

That is the impression I get after watching the system handle my new neighbor, "Mr. Tactical," who wounded a bear on May 22nd that then wandered over near my house. When I found it still alive, I called a game warden to come put it down — and to cite him for "illegal take" of wildlife, I thought, but I was wrong about that part.

To make things worse, I now strongly suspect that, after that visit by the game warden, he turned around and shot and wounded a second bear a few days later, but I cannot prove it. I merely have circumstantial evidence and strong suspicions.

Quick recap: The first bear shooting happened on May 22nd and I blogged it. On May 24th, M. and left for a planned trip to Taos, returning on the 31st. On Sunday, June 1st, I took the dog for a walk up on the high side of our property, and he flushed four turkey vultures from the woods.

"That's odd," I thought, "I wonder what attracted them."

Game warden inspects the second, decomposed bear carcass on June 3rd.
I went back up that afternoon and found the carcass of a small bear, this one with ear tags.  That rang a bell. Mrs. Tactical had babbled something about a bear with ear tags hanging around their house and allegedly frightening them, but I had tuned it out, because the bear that her husband admitted shooting had no tags.

This new dead bear was about as far from their house as the wounded bear on May 22nd had gone. If he did shoot it, he did not report it. But there is no way to prove that he shot it unless he volunteers that information.

(If a Colorado bear is found being a "nuisance" or spending too much time around human habitation, wildlife officials will often tranquilize it, check it for age, sex, and health, and put livestock-style plastic tags in each ear. Then it is relocated to a more remote spot. If it is a "nuisance bear" again, they will kill it. One strike and you're out.)

On Monday, June 2nd, I contacted the district wildlife manager for this area (not the same one who responded on May 22nd). She came out the next day, and after hearing the whole story, she collected the skull and the tags and left.

(I had sent my account of events on May 22nd to the area wildlife supervisor, but he never acknowledged it. Not into public relations, apparently.)
This scout camera photo may show the same bear that I found dead a week later, but I cannot read the ear tags to be sure. Click to enlarge.
Bureaucratic wheels turn slowly, but I doubt if Mr. Tactical will pay any price at all. Look at how the law reads, Colorado Revised Statute 33-3-106, if you want to look it up.
(3) Nothing in this section shall make it unlawful to trap, kill, or otherwise dispose of bears, mountain lions, or dogs without a permit in situations when it is necessary to prevent them from inflicting death, damage, or injury to livestock, real property, a motor vehicle, or human life and additionally, in the case of dogs, when it is necessary to prevent them from inflicting death or injury to big game and to small game, birds, and mammals. Any wildlife killed as permitted under this subsection (3) shall remain the property of the state, and such killing shall be reported to the division within five days.
Seeing a bear attacking your calf or llama is going to provoke an emotional reaction, to be sure. But motor vehicles? If you leave food in the car and a bear tries to break in, bang, dead bear. Just call Colorado Parks and Wildlife within five days. Maybe a dumpster counts as "real property." But I am not a lawyer.

All the educational programs Be Bear Aware — and all that, are just smoke and mirrors from an enforcement perspective. They are not backed up by law, and the game warden with pistol and handcuffs on his or her belt is not going to write you up for your unsecured garbage or your predator-buffet hobby chickens at the forest's edge. Maybe you have to commit a hunting-type violation, like following the bear, lion, etc. onto someone else's property without permission.

As long as you don't save the bear skin or sell its gall bladder for Chinese medicine, you're cool. Blast away.

UPDATE: The neighbor was cited for two counts of "failure to report." That was all that he could be charged with. So he pays less than $300 in fines, but at least he knows that the game wardens are on to him. Maybe that will be the end of it?

1 comment:

Steve Bodio said...

Corsican solution: burn newcomers' dwellings if they don't adapt. Fast. Maybe anyway.

They obviously would be much happier if they didn't have to contend with icky nature and bears. Exterminate the brutes.