Aspen group seeks restraining order for bears
ASPEN – A group of Redstone residents plans to seek a restraining order to prevent the Colorado Division of Wildlife from killing any more bears in the area.The unusual action is being taken by angry residents who claim the Division of Wildlife’s (DOW) credibility is shot because an officer killed a three-legged bear that became a town favorite.The bear was trapped, tranquilized and shot by the district wildlife manager because, the agency said, it was habitually breaking into homes and posing a threat to humans.The residents, led by Cheryl Haddock and Lauren Taylor, claim they were misled by wildlife officers and that complaints against the bear, known as Tripod or Kylie, were trumped up to justify “inhumane” action.”We were really naive, and so are a bunch of people in Aspen, that they don’t want to shoot bears,” Taylor said of the wildlife division officers.She said the residents are preparing to go to civil court to seek an injunction to stop any further killing of bears in the district that stretches from Aspen to Glenwood Springs and includes the Crystal and Fryingpan river valleys.In addition, Haddock wrote a letter Tuesday to Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis asking that his department launch an investigation to determine if wildlife officer Justin Martens, whose district includes Redstone, was guilty of cruelty to animals for shooting Tripod and other bears.Martens is on vacation and couldn’t be reached for comment. DOW spokesman Randy Hampton insisted Martens did nothing wrong. “The Colorado Division of Wildlife backs 100 percent the actions of Justin Martens,” Hampton said.Wildlife division spokesman Todd Malmsbury said no criminal charges or injunctions have ever been sought against the agency or its game wardens for carrying out duties assigned to it in the Colorado Constitution and state laws. He stressed that the DOW’s credibility is “excellent” with most people and virtually every local government in the state.
Nevertheless, Malmsbury said, complaints about an officer are taken seriously.”Any allegations of criminal behavior will, of course, be reviewed and we will respond to the person who made the allegations,” Malmsbury said.Tripod’s death sparks stormThe shooting of Tripod on Sept. 3 snapped relations that were already frayed between part of the town and the wildlife division. The two sides have versions of Tripod’s death that differ on major points.Hampton said the bear had broken into numerous homes over the summer and had visited Redstone “off and on over the last couple of years.” It was attracted by unsecured trash and other “attractants,” such as pet food and bird feeders. “There are indications it was even fed,” he said.The bear was a favorite of many town residents because he had an injured front leg. Haddock, Taylor and others claimed the bear demonstrated his gentle nature on numerous occasions.Residents circulated a petition in August asking the DOW to spare the bear’s life. That petition, signed by 140 area residents, was presented to the DOW on Aug. 2, Taylor said. It asked that Tripod be trapped and taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center. The residents vowed to cover any expenses necessary for treatment of the bear.Haddock and Taylor said they received an e-mail from Martens on Aug. 5 that indicated their request could be partially met.
“If I do set the trap again, the three legged bear will be relocated in the wild and will not be destroyed,” said Martens’ e-mail, which was given to The Aspen Times by the Redstone group. “This bear will not go to any rehab center.”This is not a question of whether or not the bear can be rehabbed back to a ‘wild bear’ because of its injury or anything else. It is strictly a matter of this bear learning to get food from being in too close of contact with humans and forming bad habits, due to the humans it has lived near,” the e-mail added.DOW spokesmen couldn’t verify the e-mail’s authenticity so they declined to comment on it.Martens and other wildlife officers met with Redstone residents in a town meeting on Aug. 6. Taylor, Haddock and others contend they were again assured that Tripod wouldn’t be killed. “Everything they said was a bunch of PR crap,” said Taylor.Hampton and Malmsbury said they checked with the officers who appeared at that meeting and no such guarantee was made about Tripod.Who is really responsible?Tripod was trapped outside a residence in the Crystal River Park subdivision and killed on Sept. 3. No single incident sparked the decision to kill the bear, Hampton said. It was an accumulation of “break-ins,” he said.”The Colorado Division of Wildlife does not want to kill bears. We do it grudgingly,” Hampton said.
“The Colorado Division of Wildlife did not kill that bear,” he added. “We pulled the trigger. The people in the town of Redstone who did not secure their garbage and other attractants killed that bear.”But the residents who are upset by the incident contend it was an example of overzealous action. Martens attempted to trap the bear previously but instead nabbed a bruin known in town as “The Big Bear.” He shot and killed it.Taylor claimed the bear did not violate the wildlife division’s two strikes policy. It was killed without being given a second chance, she said.The group further contends that complaints about Tripod were fabricated to justify its shooting.”People need to know if you call the Division of Wildlife, you’re calling the executioners,” said Haddock.Hampton said the residents are confused about state policies, which have been in place for a decade. There is a two-strikes policy for nuisance bears. If they keep raiding garbage cans but pose no imminent threat to people, for example, the wildlife division gives them another chance. Privately, officers will acknowledge some bears get numerous chances, as long as they don’t enter homes.But the wildlife division’s policy directs that bears that break into homes are judged to pose a threat to human safety, Hampton said. They can be killed the first time they enter a home.Hampton claimed that wildlife officers who lament having to do the dirty work of killing bears because some people won’t restrict access to food are getting used as scapegoats for tragic circumstances.Scott Condon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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