The Colorado Division of Wildlife is in the process of developing a regulation that would prohibit the hunting and killing of bears in dens.
During a Wednesday meeting in Denver, the Colorado Wildlife Commission directed the DOW to develop a regulation after learning about a Craig man’s bear kill.
In late November, Richard Kendall shot a 703-pound black bear after he tracked the animal 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.
The DOW will prepare a draft regulation and present it to the commission in March for discussion and consideration, Hampton said. A decision on the regulation could come as soon as May.
“The division staff will include regional people from an enforcement perspective, from a biological perspective, basically all of the different involved sections of the agency kind of coming up with draft language for regulation,” Hampton said.
Hampton also said the DOW will take into consideration other states with similar regulations.
According to a DOW news release, regulations manager Brett Ackerman told the commission Wednesday that den hunting is not a common practice among bear hunters, and Kendall’s kill has “provoked significant negative public feedback.”
Wildlife Commission Chairman Tim Glenn said in a news release that the commission considers regulations regarding hunting ethics on a case-by-case basis.
“This is a perfect example of the kind of issue that the Wildlife Commission needs to look at,” Glenn said. “We talked about the importance of fair chase for maintaining public trust in what we do. That is absolutely critical, so for what it’s worth, I certainly think we do need to address this issue.”
According to the release, several commissioners asked if ending bear hunting seasons earlier in the year before they entered into hibernation could solve the issue. However, some of the commissioners said weather, elevation and geography factor in to the timing of when bears go to den, and those factors vary across the state.
Hampton said one of the Wildlife Commissioners expressed concern that the issue needed to be addressed from an ethical standpoint and not one of safety.
The ethics in question, Hampton said, are those of fair chase, which is the concept that governs modern hunting management.
“It is that concept of that animal having the opportunity to escape,” Hampton said. “It gets back to those things like don’t shoot ducks on a pond … you don’t shoot turkeys out of a roost, it is just not considered the way to go about it.
“There are not laws or regulations against those things because they are not typical practices. But, should they become such, they might require something.”
Hampton said the commission reached general agreement that a regulation could be prudent.
“It was unanimous that they wanted to move this forward,” he said. “That does not mean that it is necessarily unanimous that they are going to do something, but they certainly want further consideration.”
Hampton said the specifics of the regulation, such as possible penalties, have yet to be discussed.
“That is really unknown, that will be part of the conversation,” he said. “Like many things, it is not necessarily the specific fine that serves as a deterrent, but the things that come about after an infraction.”
Hampton used the action of shooting from a road as an example and said while such an action is illegal and carries a fine, if the hunter takes an animal from the road, that animal becomes an illegal.
“Then you get into illegal possession and the potential for larger penalties,” he said. “So, we’ll put this together and see where the regulation takes us.”
Hampton said the DOW does not comment on law enforcement investigations, including whether there is one or not.
“The public has raised a number of questions in regard to the manner of the hunt that we are interested in talking to Mr. Kendall about just to get answers,” he said. “That is not to say we are investigating, it is merely to say there are questions that have come up as this story has surfaced.”
Kendall declined comment on this story Friday.
Hampton said the public will have the opportunity to address the commission regarding the draft regulation at their meetings in March and May, and at a workshop in Northwest Colorado scheduled for April.
Hampton said the commission considers all feedback. Residents may e-mail the commission at email@example.com.
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