Colorado DOW Improves Increase In Aspen-Area Black Bear Tags

Despite opposition from anti-hunters and groups like WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club, Colorado wildlife officials approved a plan to increase the black bear harvest in the Aspen area.

From this story in the Aspen Daily News:
The state Wildlife Commission Thursday approved a plan to allow hunters to kill more bears in the Aspen area in response to a growing number of conflicts between humans. During a meeting held at the Ramada Hotel, commissioners agreed to increase the number of bear tags from last year's 630 to 1,035 -- a 64 percent increase. The change will take place this fall, too late to make a difference for this summer's bear population. Officials believe even with the increase, only about 81 bears will be killed by hunters, who usually only kill about 5 percent of the bears they are licensed to hunt. The commission's decision came despite e-mails from some 200 opponents who criticized the Division of Wildlife for trying to shoot its way out of the problem rather than deal with human behaviors that lure bears into town in search of trash cans and other sources of food.

The Aspen area has seen a growing number of complaints about bears coming into urban areas. Twenty bears were killed by wildlife officials or others in the area last year, including three that were considered attacks against people in Aspen. At least 22 more bears were killed after being hit by cars in the area. Wildlife officials hope by letting hunters kill more bears, fewer of them will be put down or injured. They also hope that by reducing the number overall, they can curtail the number of "problem" bears roaming into towns and homes. Critics charge that the bears hunters will be shooting in the backcountry aren't the same ones rummaging through dumpsters or breaking into houses. The group WildEarth Guardians organized the e-mail campaign against the plan, bolstered by the Sierra Club. "Give Bears a Break, not a Bullet," the group said in e-mails to supporters, arguing that bears were already being killed in record numbers, mostly by hunters. "People in Colorado care about wildlife and care about bears," said Wendy Keefover-Ring, of WildEarth Guardians, who said she worries about the animals' long-term survival as more homes are built in bear habitat. Bears are slow to reproduce, she said, and hunting more of them could harm their survival.