Black bear slain in Emma | AspenTimes.com

Black bear slain in Emma

Charles Agar
Aspen, CO Colorado

EMMA ” Another Roaring Fork Valley black bear is dead, but this time at the hand of a bullet instead of the euthanizing needle.

Colorado Division of Wildlife officials are investigating the shooting death of an adult female black bear along the Rio Grande Trail near Emma, downvalley from Basalt.

A 911 call Wednesday alerted officials to the decaying carcass of the animal that state DOW officials believe was shot Friday evening.

Witnesses reported two cubs nearby, officials said.

The shooting is currently under criminal investigation and DOW officials have no suspects.

“We hadn’t had complaints of bear activities in the area,” said District Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright.

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He’d received calls about bruins from homeowners along nearby Sopris Creek, but nothing about problem bears along the Rio Grande Trail, he said.

“I’d say she’s been dead for five days,” Wright said of the adult sow, whose carcass was bloated and decomposing.

“There’s at least one cub,” Wright said, adding DOW officials had one confirmed sighting and witnesses alleged there was a second. “If we can’t capture those cubs, they have a 50-50 chance of survival on their own.”

And in a bad food year like this, when spring berry crops were destroyed by frost and late summer acorns devastated by draught, even healthy cubs with a mother have just a 70 percent chance of survival, Wright said.

“I’m sure they’re very hungry,” Wright said.

“We are attempting to capture those cubs to figure out if they need to go to a rehibilator or if they can go on their own,” said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton.

The sow had no DOW tags and was not a known bear to investigators, Hampton said.

“When we have a bad year food-wise, bears are brought into closer proximity to humans,” Hampton said. And human/bear encounters are a “tremendous risk” to bears, he said.

“Even in Pitkin County there are people who don’t have use for bears,” Hampton said.

Someone illegally killing a black bear could be charged with unlawful take of a black bear, a misdemeanor that comes with fines from $1,000, Hampton said.

But a charge of willful destruction of a black bear is a class V felony with fines as high as $10,000, as many as six years in jail, and the lifetime loss of hunting in fishing privileges in Colorado and 24 other states, Hampton said.

There have been other incidents when homeowners have killed bears that were aggressive or broke into homes, and some ranchers have killed bears to protect livestock, Wright said. But he could not speculate on the motive of this shooting.

Wright congratulated citizen efforts to protect garbage containers as well as area law-enforcement officials for cracking down on trash violations, but he added there are still plenty of bear “issues” in Aspen.

“People need to be diligent,” Wright said, especially with bears now in hyperphagia, a state where they forage as many as 20 hours each day in preparation for winter hibernation.

Wright asked anyone with information about the shooting in Emma to call the DOW Operation Game Thief Hotline, an anonymous tip line for wildlife incidents, at 877-265-6648.