Parks and Wildlife Officers Deemed Bear Dangerous
TELLURIDE – A heated discussion was sparked on Tuesday as some members of the Telluride Town Council criticized the decision by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers to euthanize a dangerous bear following a July 22 home-break in.
As District Parks and Wildlife Officer Renzo DelPiccolo explained to council, once a bear is known to have entered a residence, it is automatically categorized as dangerous, and, if trapped, will be put down. Most bears breaking into dumpsters and causing a nuisance are considered problem bears, and if trapped, will be tagged and relocated at least 50 miles away. If these problem bears return and cause more problems, they may be euthanized, as well.
DelPiccolo said the bear euthanized last month had the distinct characteristics, in terms of color and size, of a bear that had broken into a Telluride home on July 22, leading officers to characterize it as a dangerous bear.
“In the case of this bear, it was a bear that we believed that had an MO that continued to perpetuate bad behavior, and that behavior becomes especially bad and dangerous, in our opinion, when it enters homes,” DelPiccolo said. “We have a threshold. Once a bear enters a residence, we believe it is a dangerous bear and at that point, throughout the state, we will euthanize those bears. That is a policy we have had in place for decades now.”
DelPiccolo added that this protocol “has worked very well” because there are very few serious encounters between humans and dangerous bears.
Councilor Thom Carnevale, who spoke from behind a small bear sculpture during the discussion, voiced concern that perhaps the euthanized bear, which had not been tagged in the past, was the wrong bear. Furthermore, Carnevale said, this 8-year-old female bear could have had cubs.
“This is inappropriate behavior, particularly when the bear was not tagged,” Carnevale said. “It is very frustrating when you sit up in this position and you find the bureaucracy within these various divisions is not really consistent with good governance and respect to local communities.
“If I [were] a bear in Telluride today, I would consider defecting to Syria, because it’s safer,” Carnevale said, of country ravaged by civil war that has seen 17,000 human deaths in the last 17 months. “I keep hearing the words ‘not sure,’ ‘we hope.’ There is no conclusive evidence, and even if it is considering animal life, it has to be conclusive evidence. I would just as soon see us as a community take over the responsibly by getting citizens together and buying a trap and relocating it ourselves rather than having an outside agency come in.”
Councilor Chris Myers took Carnevale’s complaint a step further, saying that if the residents don’t want bears euthanized, perhaps they should stop calling Parks and Wildlife officials when bears are sighted, but rather report bear sightings to the town. “If we don’t want to see a dead bear, we need to take that information internally and be proactive,” Myers said, suggesting that the Telluride Marshal’s Office add additional patrols in problem bear areas.
DelPiccolo countered that Parks and Wildlife has jurisdiction over all wildlife in Colorado, and that handling bear problems on their own could create a serious liability.
“I really wouldn’t advise you to not call us if there has been a home break-in,” DelPiccolo said. “I have to tell you on record not to do that. Your wildlife agency is telling you that it is a dangerous bear, and we have a lot of experience in this.”
DelPiccolo then commended Telluride as one of the state’s “shining examples” where being “bear aware” is taken seriously, which has led to a declining number of bear problems.
“You folks have done a fantastic job, between your ordinance and being bear aware,” he said. “That’s why we don’t have to be here that often.”
In the end, after the lengthy discussion, council concluded, although not unanimously, that protecting bears is still in the court of Telluride residents and visitors, who must keep easy access to all food and garbage at an absolute minimum.
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