A post on Nextdoor.com about a black bear and two cubs recently shot and killed by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer for aggressive behavior toward humans has spurred an outcry on social media among Golden-area residents.
“We moved to …
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“We moved to Golden from Denver to be close to wildlife and trails,” one of about 50 commenters posted, “and this is not the way we should be treating our animal friends.”
Another post read: “Living around beautiful wildlife is why we choose to live in the mountains. This bear has been around without any trouble and I am sad that such extreme measures were used and equally sad about the way the bear encounter was reported.”
But the two hikers who encountered the mother bear and her two cubs at about 6:15p.m. said the mother bear charged at them repeatedly.
The hikers, who had two dogs with them on short leashes, encountered the bears on the Enchanted Forest Trail in Apex Park. Apex Park is a Jefferson County Open Space park that has an east trailhead off Heritage Road and a west trailhead off Lookout Mountain Road, both in Golden.
The hikers reported the incident to the Colorado State Patrol, which then dispatched Colorado Parks and Wildlife. They told the parks and wildlife officer the bear had charged at them several times, said Jennifer Churchill, public information officer for the northeast region of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
They tried unsuccessfully to discourage the bear, Churchill said, which included blowing whistles, hiding behind a tree and spraying the bear with pepper spray. But the bear continued to charge and at one point came as close as one foot away, Churchill said.
“This bear was being aggressive,” Churchill said.
Agency policy is to put down an animal that is being aggressive towards humans, she said.
The cubs also were put down out of concern they had already learned aggressive behavior from their mother, Churchill said.
“It’s a sad day when we have to put down aggressive animals, especially young wildlife,” Northeast Regional Manager Mark Leslie stated in a media release. “We realize the sensitivity of citizens to young animals being put down and understand the frustration people feel. However, we would not be fulfilling our primary goal of public safety if we allow aggressive wildlife to remain on a popular trail so close to humans.”
Sergey Ilyuskin, who lives in Golden and has hiked Apex Park on a regular basis for about seven years, is familiar with the bear and the two cubs. He said he had three encounters with them over the three weeks before their deaths.
The first and third times, Ilyuskin said, cyclists on the trail warned him they had spotted the bear and her cubs. To avoid them, Ilyuskin went in a different direction. The second time, Ilyuskin came upon a biker stopped on the side of the trail, who pointed to the bear.
“She was probably 20 meters from us,” he said. “She was eating berries, looked at us several times and then walked away.”
Ilyuskin said that all three times, nobody mentioned aggressive behavior from the bear.
“They were just there eating — they wouldn’t disturb anyone,” he said. “I don’t know how this whole thing could’ve happened.”
In certain cases, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will tranquilize and relocate a bear that is being a nuisance, such as when it is hanging around an area that is not an appropriate bear habitat for too long, Churchill said.
But in general, relocation doesn’t work effectively, she added. Bears will sometimes try to return to that spot. And because bear habitats are close to where people also recreate and live, bears become comfortable with humans and can become territorial and aggressive.
The best thing to do when spotting wildlife, Churchill said, is stop for a minute to take a picture or quick video, then attempt to chase it off — blow an airhorn or bang on pots and pans.
Bears must retain a natural and healthy fear of humans for their own safety, Churchill said.
“We have a lot of bears, and we have a lot of people in Colorado,” she said. “If we’re going to coexist, we have to have a line between us and the wildlife.”
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