Aspen homeowner’s killing of bear above board, authorities say
A homeowner in Pitkin County shot and killed a black bear from his property in a residential neighborhood Thursday, an act local and state officials say was a legal kill.
The shooting occurred in the Meadowood subdivision near the Aspen Chapel.
“The bottom line is that he did everything, at least that we are aware of, legally,” said Mike Porras, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Pitkin County authorities were alerted about the shooting from Connie Holcomb, who was doing gardening work at a home next door to the hunter’s residence. The shot was fired between 11:30 a.m. and noon that day, she said.
The bear — a “mature, big sow” — was a frequent visitor to the area, she said. The gunfire alarmed her and a co-worker, she said.
“We felt like, how can someone do this in a residential area?” she said, adding the bear wasn’t a nuisance or didn’t present a threat.
Even so, the gunman’s actions were above board, authorities said.
Deputy Anthony Todaro, who responded to the call, said he contacted Parks and Wildlife, which confirmed the man had the proper license to shoot and kill the bear from his land.
Holcomb said she and her co-worker weren’t in the shooter’s view, but “we were definitely in plain earshot of the shooter.” She called the shot “deafening.”
“(Holcomb) was pretty upset, and I can empathize with that,” Todaro said. “If someone fired a gun that close to me, it certainly would have scared me, too.”
But the hunter, who used a single shot from a rifle to put down the bear, didn’t violate any county laws, the deputy said.
“There are restrictions, but I looked at the general direction in which he fired his weapon and it was safe,” Todaro said. “Other than the noise, … she was never in danger. We take these calls very seriously, of course, but I didn’t believe anybody was at risk of being injured while this happened.”
It is illegal to shoot a firearm across a road or highway or in the direction of a residence, Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said. Neither of those actions occurred, Todaro said.
As required by law, the hunter presented the bear’s hide to a Parks and Wildlife Office within 48 hours of the shooting, Porras said. The hunter also was required to prepare the bruin for consumption, Porras said, adding that it is a felony to dispose of a big-game animal that is legally or illegally killed.
The shooter had two licenses to shoot bears. One applied to private land and the other to public land. Porras said the hunter presented officials with his public-land license.
Although he gunned down the bear from his private property, “his private land falls in a game-management unit where it was legal” to shoot the bear, Porras said.
Hunters with public-land licenses can shoot bears in the boundaries south and east of Capital Creek and Capitol Peak in Pitkin County from Sept. 2 to Sept. 30. Those boundaries also include east and north of the Elk Mountains ridge line between Capitol Peak and Snowmass Mountain, and east of the Pitkin-Gunnison county lines, according to Parks and Wildlife big-game regulations for 2016.
“Here you have a story where a hunter takes an animal in full view of the public,” Porras said. “But as long as the hunter is legal, they have the right to hunt, they have the right to harvest the animal for food on the table. But we also remind hunters that they should be considerate to the public.”
Authorities declined to reveal the hunter’s name because he was not charged.
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Just in time for Halloween, the Pitkin County Board of Health voted 4-2 to reduce the size of informal gatherings from 10 to five for at least the next two weeks starting Friday. According to the public health director, officials are currently investigating 11 outbreaks in Pitkin County.