Letter: Poor actions in bear killing
With the recent bear shooting at the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain, I just have to shake my head. As someone who has made a living for my entire adult life as a Special Forces soldier carrying a gun and assessing threats to life and limb, the July 19 Aspen Times story “Gondola, restaurant closed after Sundeck employee shoots bear” makes little sense on any level. Since when has it become policy for Aspen Skiing Co. employees to carry a firearm, much less two firearms? Where is the protocol or standard operating procedure that says this is OK? My guess is “nowhere,” because I have to hope that Skico is smarter than that, especially when it comes to guest and employee safety, general risk management and coexistence with wildlife whose home is in our local backcountry. Why a more aggressive engagement between Skico leadership and Parks and Wildlife personnel was not made in this case also seems to defy logic.
We all know that bears sometimes pose a threat to public safety, but isn’t the wisest course of action to back off and let a law or wildlife enforcement officer (i.e., somebody who actually knows what the hell they are doing) trap or euthanize the animal? In this case the Skico employee who wounded the 70-pound bear was a poor marksman and engaged the bear with weapons and intent that were clearly inappropriate for the task. On the first point, he missed with his first shot with the shotgun. I wonder where that slug or buckshot went. Luckily there are never any hikers in the vicinity of the Sundeck after an early-morning workout. And on the second point, after hitting the bear with a nonfatal second and third shot, the only result was a horribly wounded and scared animal. Two gunshot wounds on a 70-pound bear, and it’s still upright? Jeff Hanle from Skico noted that after the shooting, there was bear blood and feces all over the inside of the Sundeck. Well jeez, Jeff, I wonder how the heck that mess happened. This bruin was not exactly the grizzly from “The Revenant,” but if the employee felt an imminent threat and a compelling need to shoot this animal (which I think in this case is nonsense), he needed to be prepared to kill it regardless of how many shots it took. And if the poor bear was finally found and euthanized outside under the Sundeck’s deck area (as indicated in the article), why couldn’t the employees have run it out to begin with without any gunplay and had Parks and Wildlife take it from there? It’s not that important to get the gondola, open is it?
Overall, a big thumbs-down to Skico on this. Valley wildlife deserves more respect and decency.
And if the open carry is in fact policy, I would definitely think twice before ducking a rope or poaching McFarland’s this winter.
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