September 14, 2009

Colorado’s ‘two strikes’ policy on problem bears not working

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InvestigateWest took a decidedly pro-bear stand here last week in defense of the bears of Aspen, and this week, the Colorado Division of Wildlife is coming around a bit. They’re admitting that the “us-against-them”game plan hasn’t worked too well, so they’re back to the the drawing board, the Aspen Times reports today.

What’s weird,  Carolyn Sackariason writes, is that this summer hasn’t been a tough food year. The bears just seem, well, ticked at the humans, and smart. They’re coming in the houses and rummaging in the fridges. While heavy rain earlier damaged the berry supply, it wasn’t the “full natural food failure” that in previous years has driven the bears to extremely bad (from a human standpoint) behavior. The bears seem to have simply figured out there’s a lot of food inside those houses, lured by the trash outside the houses, and the increasing number of humans and their dwellings.

So far this summer, 22 Aspen area bears have been relocated, and four cubs have been sent to rehabilitation centers. Eleven bears have been killed. Nationwide attention focused again on Aspen last week when a bear entered a man’s house and attacked the man, causing superficial scratches. Other humans also have been attacked, including a sleeping woman scratched by a bear on her deck.

But wildlife officials’ “two strike’s policy,” in which problem bears are first relocated, then killed the second time they break into a home or garbage can,  is apparently now up for review.  More public education and more hunting licenses are two of the agenda items to be studied during the coming long cold winter of hibernation. And we’re hoping the bears won’t be curling up in any ski lodge spare bedrooms.

— Rita Hibbard

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