Tripod’s demise deserves different response |

Tripod’s demise deserves different response

Aspen Times writer

The recent effort by members of the Redstone community to single out and penalize a single employee at the state Division of Wildlife focuses the bear debate in the wrong direction.Redstone residents Cheryl Haddock and Lauren Taylor claim that Justin Martens, the Division of Wildlife officer who works in the Redstone area, misled the community when he allegedly promised to relocate rather than kill Tripod, a three-legged bruin that had become a familiar face around the village.On Sept. 3, Martens trapped and killed Tripod, leaving Haddock, Taylor and a number of their neighbors feeling anywhere from sad to angry. The women then promised to seek a civil injunction to keep the DOW from killing any more bears; they also asked Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis to investigate Martens for cruelty to animals.Tripod’s demise, like that of other bears this summer, is sad and unfortunate. But instead of pointing fingers at a wildlife officer who followed policies created a decade ago, Redstone residents (and everyone else, for that matter) should take a hard look at their own decisions and activities in relation to bears.For more than a hundred years, people and bears have shared the valley and surrounding mountains with relatively little trouble. An ill-timed frost this summer killed off much of the food that bears need to fatten up for winter, forcing a large number into the valleys in search of food. That has led to countless bear encounters around the valley.Most of the human-ursine interactions have been harmless for both species. But some people have found bears inside their homes. Often, the hungry bruins have simply followed their noses to unsecured garbage cans and open windows. In short, they’ve accepted invitations that people have unknowingly sent out.In the case of Tripod, there is evidence that people were feeding the bear. If this is true, Tripod’s “friends” arguably played a larger role in the bear’s death than Officer Martens, who simply pulled the trigger on a long-standing state policy.Tripod was the 10th local bear killed by the DOW this summer. If the Division had followed its “two-strikes” policy to the letter, it would have killed Tripod in July and many other bears since.If Redstone residents don’t like the two-strikes law, then lobby the Legislature for a change. But don’t blame wildlife officers for doing their job. Chances are they don’t enjoy the killing either.