DENVER (CBS4) – The bears are waking up in the high country and every year this time there are reports of close encounters between bears and people. Now state lawmakers are considering a measure allowing more bear hunting.
No one knows for sure how many black bears there are in Colorado, but conflicts between bears and people are on the rise — there are thousands every year.
Rep. J. Paul Brown lives in southwest Colorado where two people were eaten by bears.
“I’m really concerned about these bears that are very, very gentle and are in town. Folks, they’re dangerous,” Brown said.
Brown has introduced a bill that would allow bear hunting year round in Colorado at the discretion of the Division of Wildlife.
In 1992 voters decided to limit the season to prevent hunting in the spring when sows and cubs are out.
“I think that probably one of reasons they did a statutory initiative was that if things aren’t working the legislature would have the opportunity to make that change,” Brown said.
“Seventy percent of people voted for this; to protect black bears,” Wendy Keefover with the non-profit WildEarth Guardians said.
Keefover says the DOW can already kill problem bears. In fact, it’s put down 170 in the last couple years alone. She says more hunting won’t mean fewer conflicts, but will mean more sows and cubs dying.
“Hunters can’t tell difference between male and female bears and sometimes she may not have the cubs with her, so if a hunter were to kill a female, they would also indirectly kill up to three cubs,” Keefover said.
“Because we have the authority to open up a season year-round doesn’t mean we’ll do it,” DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said.
Hampton says what they would do is consider hunting in problem areas that overwhelm wildlife officers’ time and resources.
“The division now is killing more and more bears because, unfortunately, because of those conflict situations,” Hampton said. “If we have opportunity, our preference certainly would be that sportsmen would be able harvest bears instead us going out and killi them.”
For now it appears lawmakers may kill the bill. So far only one Democrat has signed on to it giving it a long shot of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The DOW has not taken an official position on the bill.
Right now bear hunting is prohibited between March and September.