Life to get even tougher for the bear population
The familiar sight of bears around Aspen may be in for a change soon, as the “limited” bear hunting season gets underway on Sept. 2.
Some people are wondering whether the sound of gunfire in the backcountry might drive even more bears into town, or whether a reduction in competition for forage might mean fewer bears will feel the need to seek food from human sources.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Colorado Division of Wildlife spokeswoman Cruz Latil, referring to the impact of the hunting season on human-bear interactions in populated areas.
That is true both of the behavior of bears and of the hunters, she said, explaining, “We don’t know where the hunters are going to go to hunt bears.”
The entire month of September will be devoted to the “limited” bear hunt. Hunters who have purchased licenses through the state’s lottery system will be able to go rifle hunting for either sex of bears.
The only caveat is that it is illegal to shoot a sow caring for cubs, so hunters are being advised to wait before they fire in order to see if there are any cubs hanging around. It also is illegal to shoot bear cubs, Latil said.
It also is illegal to hunt bears in or near towns, cities and subdivisions, not to mention U.S. Forest Service campgrounds. So the high number of bears who have been foraging in dumpsters, kitchens and other urban areas may be the safest bears in the state next month.
The limit on bears is one per hunter, Latil said, and hunters cannot fire on bears in what are called “safe zones,” which are populated areas such as those mentioned above and anywhere within 50 feet of the centerline of a road.
It also is illegal to put out bait for bears and then shoot them when they show up. Latil said it will be up to individual wildlife enforcement officers to rule on whether a bear shot near a dumpster has been killed illegally.
Trophy hunting is not permitted, Latil said, meaning the meat of the bear must be prepared for human consumption and not simply left to rot after the hide has been taken. Also, it is illegal to use dogs to hunt bears, she said.
Besides the “limited” season in September, Latil said, hunters of other big game such as deer and elk can buy an over-the-counter permit to hunt bears during the other big-game seasons. But the bears must only be shot during the particular season shown on the permit, meaning a hunter with a permit for an elk can also shoot a bear while he’s out in the woods, but only during elk season.
According to Todd Malmsbury, publicist for the DOW, there were 800 bears killed by hunters last year, and he expects similar numbers in this year’s hunt.
He said that, contrary to popular opinion, most bears are staying in the high country, while “a fraction” of the state’s estimated 10,000 bears are coming down to lower elevations and getting into trouble with humans.
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Traveling, sharing the passion and excitement of skiing and the coming winter is a ritual Warren Miller started and one Miller Ford is proud to carry on.