Bears in woods and hunters don't care

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With rifle hunting season in full swing, one animal that doesn't get much attention is the bear.

There are an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 black bears in Colorado open to hunters during bear season. The reason for the 4,000-bear range in the estimate is the same reason many people don't hunt the animal.

"The bear has an elusive nature," said Chamois Pierson, spokesman for the Division of Wildlife (DOW) in Denver. "They're just hard to spot."

Hunters may buy bear tags over the counter if they carry elk or deer licenses in rifle season. Though the opportunity is there, not many hunters opted to hunt for bear.

About 9,000 hunters bought bear tags last year; only 553 bears, or 6 percent, were actually harvested, according to DOW statistics.

"The success rate for harvesting a black bear is extremely low," Pierson said.

Compared to 254,913 elk hunters last year who had a 20 percent harvest rate or 51,500 out of a herd of more than 230,000 elk.

"We try to stress to everyone that there's bear out there, and a lot of them," said Sajon Covillo, who sells hunting licences at Wal-Mart in Steamboat Springs. He explained that most of the people who buy bear tags from him are non-residents, but the store doesn't sell many.

Hunters with bear tags are not a strange sight in Northwest Colorado.

"There's a fairly significant number," said Libbie Miller of the Division of Wildlife.

Most people, she explained, will buy a bear tag with an elk or deer tag. They won't especially hunt for bear, but if they see one, they will be able to legally take a shot.

Poaching of bear hasn't been a problem in Routt County this year, Miller said. In the past, there has been a problem with hunters who waste the bear meat.

"Colorado requires that people utilize the meat for consumption," she said.

The DOW will accept the bear meat and donate it to someone who wants it. Miller said that one of the best uses for the meat is to make pepperoni with it.

Rifle seasons for bear, elk and deer will continue through the month and will end on Nov. 6.

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