By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – Hunters kill a thousand bears in Colorado a year on average, but one state lawmaker says if the hunting season was expanded it would decrease the number of bear encounters with humans.READ MORE: After Small Planes Collided Over Denver Area, Woman Saw Damaged Aircraft Coming Down And 'Just Ran'
“The bears for whatever reason are getting more populace and are being more aggressive toward humans,” said Republican Rep. Yeulin Willett of Grand Junction.
A new study by Colorado Parks and Wildlife finds an average of 875 conflicts a year and 24 more conflicts a year on average over the last 20 years.
Last summer alone, three people were injured by bears.
“I really fear this has become a public safety issue,” said Willet, who has introduced a bill calling for a bear hunt in August after the study found it may help.
“In August, there’s no other seasons going on so the hunters cold just focus on bears and furthermore the bears are particularly active in August.”
Willet says the hunt will reduce the number of nuisance bears that wildlife officials need to euthanize — an average of 300 bears a year.
“The bears are being killed anyway. Why not let our citizens — our good, conscientious, ethical men and women who like to hunt and like to have the whole animal — the cape, the meat — for their family, why not let them take the bears in August?”READ MORE: It's Melanoma Awareness Month, And Colorado Doctor Has Advice: Look Out 'For Spots That Are Irregular'
The Humane Society of the United States is opposed to expanding the hunting season.
“The bears that are getting into trouble in urban interfaces; those are not the ones that are going to be hunted. It doesn’t matter when you move the season,” said Wendy Keefover with the Humane Society.
Keefover says an August hunt would just leave more cubs orphaned.
“The best available science — and there’s probably 10 studies out there — shows you that hunting bears does not resolve conflict. You can’t shoot your way out of this problem. The only way we’re going to solve this is to do education,” she said.
Wildlife officials agree. The study says hunting alone won’t reduce conflicts.
Right now, bear hunting is only allowed in the months of September, October, November and December in Colorado. In 1992, voters banned it any earlier than September.
Since then, the number of bears has doubled, from about 10,000 to nearly 20,000.MORE NEWS: COVID In Colorado: Governor's Office Lifts Face Mask Mandate For Those Who Are Vaccinated