Bear-feeding backer unswayed |

Bear-feeding backer unswayed

The man who helped spark debate about feeding beleaguered bears this summer said he hasn’t heard any criticism that’s swayed his opinion.

On the other hand, Aspenite Chris Leverich said he won’t become the “flag bearer” of the cause.

“I’m not wed to the idea,” he said. “I was just trying to come up with a solution.

Leverich wrote a letter to new DOW director Russell George, who he said is a friend, earlier this month suggesting that food be provided to bears in remote sites, far from towns like Aspen. The feeding was proposed as a way to keep the bears from rummaging around town looking for food.

Leverich said he doesn’t think bear feeding should be undertaken unless there’s an emergency, like this year’s severe shortage in food supply.

Wildlife officials have estimated that half the bear cubs won’t survive the winter because of a lack berries and acorns this summer and fall. In addition, a record number of bears have been intentionally killed in Colorado for being so-called nuisances.

George responded to Leverich’s letter by thanking him for the proposal and saying he would forward it to appropriate staff members. Leverich still hasn’t heard from DOW staff.

The idea gained regional and even national attention from media reporting on Colorado’s and Aspen’s problems with hungry bruins. The plan has produced lively debate, pro and con, in letters to local newspapers.

In an unrelated action, the town of Basalt wrote a letter to the wildlife division suggesting greater efforts should be made by the agency to educate residents about bear encounters and to respond to calls for help. That letter also asks the agency to consider feeding bears.

“Many citizens have pointed out that we feed elk and deer when necessary. Perhaps bears should be fed as well,” the letter said.

Upon reflecting on the letter after writing it, said Town Manager Tom Baker, he’s not sure feeding bears is the best solution. He’s been told by wildlife experts that once bears are provided with human food, even in remote locations, they will seek out handouts.

Baker said he doesn’t want to second-guess the DOW’s decisions.

Wildlife division officials have criticized the feeding proposal as ludicrous. “This isn’t Disney Land,” DOW spokesman Todd Malmsbury said earlier this summer about the bear-feeding overtures.

Leverich acknowledged that he doesn’t know the best solution, but taking no action and letting bears starve and become nuisances or even threats in populated areas isn’t appropriate, either, he said.

“People have latched onto this thing that `a fed bear is a dead bear,'” said Leverich. “That’s just a catchy rhyme.”

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