State may sell more bear tags

Aspen area focus of DOW effort

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is considering nearly doubling the number of bear hunting licenses in the Aspen area from 630 to roughly 1,100.

The increase is part of a comprehensive plan to reduce human-bear conflicts in the area, which includes Vail, Aspen and Glenwood Springs.

The agency also is partnering with local governments to tighten local ordinances regarding garbage storage and other bear-attractive items such as barbecues.

State and local wildlife officers and police have been battling bear troubles in the Aspen area for the last decade.

Aspen city officials said they responded to 713 bear complaints last year, including three incidents where homeowners were injured by bears. A bear was killed last August after it injured an Aspen woman who was sleeping on her deck.

According to the DOW, wildlife officers last year killed 20 problem bears in the Aspen area.

While the hope is that hunting may alleviate some of the trouble, DOW spokesman Randy Hampton emphasized that hunting alone will not solve what is proving to be a continuing and growing problem.

Hampton said hunters each year on average kill only 5 percent of the approved quota.

“So 1,100 licenses do not equal 1,100 bears,” Hampton said. “But we want to shift the killing of bears to sportsmen rather than wildlife officers or local law enforcement agencies.”

The long-term argument that the human-bear conflicts were considered “people problems, not bear problems,” because of failed efforts to control waste and garbage storage, no longer was working.

“There’s some truth to that, but after 20 years it’s not getting any better,” he said. “It’s time to take a more comprehensive approach.”

While the DOW cannot require cities or counties to enforce or tighten regulations, there has been a great deal of cooperation between state and local officials.

Bear-resistant trash cans are required in Aspen and Pitkin County, and officials there have increased fines for not using bear-proof trash cans and Dumpsters.

Hampton also said the DOW is working with local agencies to form a volunteer “Bear Aware” team to educate Aspen residents on how to avoid bear encounters.

A similar program has met with great success in Summit County.

Information is available at http://aspentrash.com/bearaware.aspx.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission is expected to consider the proposed license increase at its May 6 meeting in Glenwood Springs.


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