Extra charge possible for protester of bear killing near Snowmass | AspenTimes.com

Extra charge possible for protester of bear killing near Snowmass

A mama bear and her cub pose for a photo on Shady Lane in Aspen on Wednesday.

A 68-year-old Pitkin County man who allegedly berated a hunter for legally killing a bear next door to his property earlier this month may face a third charge in connection with the incident.

Thomas Andersen, who's already been charged with felony arson and misdemeanor disorderly conduct, should also face a charge of harassment of a hunter, according to a report by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer filed Wednesday with the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.

The charge is justified because Andersen came across the property line of the private ranch near Snowmass Village where the hunter had received permission to hunt and yelled at the hunter, his two young children and the ranch caretaker's wife, according to the report by wildlife Officer Kurtis Tesch.

That meant the hunter had to wait about an hour to properly care for the bear meat, though it didn't result in the loss of any of the meat, the report states.

Andersen also later "hindered" the hunter from leaving the ranch property when he allegedly poured gasoline on the driveway in retaliation for shooting the bear, Tesch wrote in his report.

"(The hunter) was clearly still in the act of hunting because the bear was not fully taken care (of), which he has the legal responsibility to do so according to (a wildlife statute)," the report states.

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A person violates the statute by intentionally harassing "any person lawfully participating in the activity of hunting, trapping and fishing by the use of threats or actions," according to Tesch's report. Penalties include a fine between $500 and $1,000, as well as the loss of a suspension of 20 points toward a fishing or hunting license.

Prosecutor Don Nottingham declined to comment Wednesday about whether the charge would be officially added to the counts against Andersen.

Andersen said Wednesday he didn't know about the new charge, but noted he wasn't interviewed by Tesch.

"I look forward to my day in court to explain what really happened," Andersen said.

The incident occurred Sept. 7 at Brush Creek Ranch — owned by the Droste family — off Lower Brush Creek Road in unincorporated Pitkin County near Snowmass Village. Emergency dispatchers received a call about 7:50 p.m. from a person alleging that more than one bear, including cubs, were being illegally hunted and killed.

A ranch caretaker told a deputy he had given his friend permission to hunt for bears on the property. The friend admitted to killing the bear, and another deputy was able to confirm with CPW that the man had a valid permit to hunt a bear and that the time, day and location were legal, the report states.

But after the killing, the hunter told deputies that Thomas Andersen came over to the property "in a rage" and began screaming at him, his two sons and the ranch caretaker, according to the report by Deputy Michael Buglione.

Andersen told the boys their father "is a murderer" and a "dumb f—," and called the boys "sons of bitches" and "little bastards," the hunter told deputies, according to the report.

The man's sons are ages 5 and 7, Buglione said. Andersen's "rage lasted several minutes," the report states.

Because of the confrontation, the hunter's children now "have a negative image of hunting," Tesch wrote in his report after speaking to the hunter.

Andersen's son told The Aspen Times last week that his father became angry because he'd been watching the bears all summer and is a fan of wildlife in general. His father also had asked the caretaker the day before to curb shooting on the property next door because his wife has a heart condition, his son said. Deputies were called back to the ranch the night of the bear shooting after the hunter reported finding gasoline poured on the ranch driveway, along with a gas can nozzle and a piece of brown paper bag, according to a deputy's report.

Deputy Michael Buglione then knocked on Andersen's door.

"I asked Andersen about the gas, nozzle and paper and he said, 'At least I didn't start the fire,'" Buglione wrote in his report. "I asked Andersen if he poured gas on the driveway and left the nozzle and paper there in retaliation to (the hunter) legally shooting a bear and Andersen's reply was, 'Yeah, but I didn't light the fire.'"

Andersen's son denied his father was trying to start a fire, saying his father accidentally spilled the gas while carrying a heavy gas can.

A message left for Andersen's Denver lawyer was not returned Wednesday.

jauslander@aspentimes.com