The recent killing of a 703-pound black bear by a Craig resident has Colorado Division of Wildlife officials considering proposing a change in hunting rules.
In late November, Richard Kendall shot a possible state record black bear after he tracked it to its cave in Moffat County. Kendall said he shot the bear from about six feet away after entering the cave.
Currently, such an action is legal under Colorado hunting regulations, DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said.
However, Hampton confirmed Friday the DOW was looking at taking the issue to the Colorado Wildlife Commission for discussion of whether a regulation is “prudent and enforceable.”
“What we discussed is, ‘Is there a need for a regulation in Colorado to prohibit this kind of action in the future?’” he said.
Hampton said hunting ethics factored into the DOW’s consideration of a rule against killing a bear in its cave or den.
“In this particular case, Mr. Kendall was within his legal right to kill a bear in den,” Hampton said. “There are additional questions that many people in the public have raised, and we are interested in finding out about those.”
Hampton said a Dec. 4 story in the Saturday Morning Press describing how Kendall shot the bear prompted the DOW to look further into the issue.
“Will other people see this story and say, ‘Oh, hey, never thought of that, and it must be OK because Colorado allows it?’” he said. “What we want to do is have that discussion with the wildlife commission.”
Hampton said there are several other states with regulations against shooting bears in dens or caves.
“People support hunting because it is, for the most part … based on sound principals of wildlife management and is based in the ethic of fair chase,” he said.
Fair chase, Hampton said, is one of the founding principals of modern hunting.
“There are many things with ethics of hunting that are not regulated,” he said. “For example, duck hunters will tell you that you don’t shoot ducks on a pond — you wait until they are in flight. You don’t shoot turkeys out of a roost and you don’t shoot bears in their dens.”
Hampton said ethical issues, such as shooting a bear in its cave or den, are not always regulated because they may differ slightly depending on the area. It is also something the DOW has rarely heard about occurring locally, Hampton said.
“In the case of killing a bear while it is defenseless, sleeping in its den, it is something that we as an agency had not heard of people engaging in,” he said.
Regulation may not be needed until an incident arises, Hampton said.
“Then everybody goes, ‘Whoa, OK, maybe it’s not as simple or as clear as we had believed,’” he said.
However, the ultimate decision on whether a rule would be developed prohibiting the shooting of bears in dens rests with the wildlife commission. The development of any regulation would take place throughout several months, he said.
“The wildlife commission doesn’t do anything without public input,” he said. “Passage of a hunting regulation occurs in an either two- or three-step public process.”
Hampton said the punishment or fine for violating any DOW regulation would be up to the wildlife commission.
“Yes, it could be a potentially small penalty, but the penalty allows the division to fully address what that violation led to,” he said.
Kendall declined to comment on this story, but said he would like to address the kill in a future letter to the editor of the Craig Daily Press.