Man shoots bear, claims self-defense
Aspen Times Staff Writer
For the second time in three years a black bear has been shot and killed in the Roaring Fork Valley by a person claiming self-defense.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife is investigating a shooting that occurred last Friday at a home along the Roaring Fork River in Woody Creek, according to spokesman Todd Malmsbury. The shooting occurred at about 4 p.m. Authorities were alerted by a citizen the next day.
The bear was a yearling of unknown sex, according to wildlife officer Kelly Wood. The bear’s sex is unknown because the carcass wasn’t recovered. Neither Wood nor Malmsbury would clarify where the carcass disappeared on the riverside property.
While the division believes the incident is worth investigating, it hasn’t been determined yet if a charge or charges will be filed, Malmsbury said. The wildlife division is working with the district attorney’s office to determine how to proceed.
Wood is heading the investigation. “We’re trying to figure out if it was self-defense or not,” she said.
The wildlife division wouldn’t name the suspect because no charge has been filed. However, Snowmass Village attorney Arnold Mordkin confirmed that he has been hired to represent longtime Woody Creek resident Patrick Fox in the case.
“I can assure you it was a case of self-defense, from what my client told me,” said Mordkin. “He was concerned for his life.”
He said he couldn’t discuss details of the shooting because he is traveling out of the area and hasn’t talked extensively with Fox yet. Mordkin said it is possible he would release a statement next week.
Fox declined comment other than to say he hopes no one draws conclusions or develops a bias until his side of the story comes out.
A source familiar with the situation said a bear had been a regular visitor to the area and that Fox had concerns about the safety of his family. Fox’s property is located where the bird is flipping someone off from a rooftop visible from Highway 82.
Another source familiar with the situation suggested that the bear was aggressively searching for food after someone other than Fox began feeding it.
Wildlife officers say that feeding bears or allowing them to rely on human food supplies is a death sentence for the bruins because they will continue to go for easy sources rather than natural sources. “A fed bear is a dead bear” is the unpopular motto.
Wildlife officers said there is no timetable for a decision on whether a ticket will be issued. Chief Deputy District Attorney Lawson Wills is out of his office until June 16.
A Basalt man was charged by the DOW for shooting a bear that repeatedly visited his property in summer 2000. The sow broke into a small cabin on the property to find food for her and her two cubs. The owner shot the sow during one return visit because he was concerned about his wife and baby. Wildlife officers didn’t feel the bear posed a threat to him.
The Eagle County district attorney’s office eventually decided against pursuing charges in the case because it was impossible to prove the man didn’t feel there was a threat to the lives of his family. Mordkin also handled that case.
Malmsbury said the Woody Creek shooting is the first case of its kind in Colorado that he was aware of this year.
“This year so far has not resulted in as many people-bear encounters as other years,” he said. One reason is apparently the good condition of bear habitat, according to Malmsbury.
He said there have been problems with a sow and three cubs breaking into camper trailers in South Park and with a sow and three cubs getting into trash in Durango. None of those bears have been killed.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
The Aspen City Council directed staff to move forward with the Burlingame early childhood education center, but decided it needs more information on the affordable housing units that are part of the schematic design at a work session Monday.