Colorado may extend bear season

 

Colorado's official state mammal is the bighorn sheep, but if you go by which wild critter gets the most attention from state government lately, it would be the black bear.
 
black bearIn 1992, state voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative which eliminated the spring bear-hunting season by outlawing bear hunting between March 1 and Sept. 1. The main argument was that the spring hunt killed bears that weren't being hunted because if a nursing sow dies, her cubs will likely starve to death.
 
Baiting bears and hunting them with dogs are methods that were also banned in the 1992 measure. Those practices would remain illegal, but the spring hunt could resume, under a bill sponsored by Rep. J. Paul Brown, a sheep rancher from southwestern Colorado.
 
His bill would allow the state's wildlife commission to set bear seasons as it sees fit, and it is supported by the Farm Bureau, which sees an increasing bear population as a threat to agriculture.
 
 It is difficult to conduct an ursine census, since bears tend to be nocturnal and live in wild places. There do seem to be more reports of bear encounters,  but that could be a result of more humans living in bear country, or of a dry year that has bears foraging in new places for nutrition they can't find in their usual haunts.
 
Speaking personally, I never saw a bear in the wild in Colorado until about a decade ago. Since then, I've seen a couple of them every year when I'm bouncing around on back roads.
 
In other bear-hunting developments, the state wildlife commission is considering a new regulation that would ban shooting bears in caves. This came about after a record 703-pound bear was shot in a cave by a hunter last year in northwestern Colorado. It didn't violate any laws, but it does raise questions about "fair chase."
 
As the legislature debates the issue, the bears are starting to emerge from their winter dens -- in what could be their last hunt-free spring.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

Ed Quillen is a freelance writer in Salida, Colo.

Image courtesy Flickr user Lon & Queta

 
 

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