DOW cites two in bear killing at Pitkin County landfill
A Pitkin County Landfill employee was terminated after he was involved in the killing of a black bear on the facility’s grounds.
Jesse Schoeller’s exit took effect Sept. 10, according to Dannette Logan, the county’s human resources director. She noted, in an email, that “termination and/or separation of employment are one in the same.” Schoeller, 26, Carbondale, declined comment for this story.
The alleged killing, achieved with two shots from a bow and arrow, became public Monday when the Colorado Division of Wildlife filed a case report in Pitkin County Court on Schoeller, along with paperwork requiring him to answer four charges.
Schoeller was not alone; a second person, El Jebel resident Kaleb Nye, also 26, was written up by the DOW. Because he paid his fine, however, he isn’t required to appear in court, District Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright said.
The two allegedly were involved in the killing of the bear on Sept. 1, one day before the state’s opening day for archery season for bruins, according to the case report.
Both confessed to participating in the bear’s demise, the report says.
“They both thought about it and both acknowledged that they should do it [kill the bear],” the report says.
Schoeller also told officers that they watched bears for two hours at the landfill “and shot the biggest one that was there,” according to the report.
The large boar – Wright estimates he was roughly 15 years old – was discovered on the morning of Sept. 2 by a group of hunters who had been permitted to hunt bears at the landfill, where the animals have been foraging since the summer. The hunters arrived at the landfill at approximately 5:45 that morning. Some 90 minutes later, the hunters initially believed they had one in site nearby on a hillside, according to the report.
Thinking the bear was alive, two of the three hunters tried to “sneak up on it,” the report says.
“As the hunters got close to the bear they saw that it wasn’t moving,” wrote the report’s author, Wildlife Officer Matt Yamashita. “They walked up to the bear and determined it was already dead. They saw two arrow holes in the side of the bear.”
That finding prompted landfill employee Jason Ferguson to call the DOW’s Wright. Later, wildlife officials inspected the bear, finding three arrow holes in it – two in its shoulder (including an exit wound), and one in its lower right abdominal wall, the report says.
Two days later, on Sept. 4, Yamashita received a voice message from Schoeller, who said he and Nye “made the biggest mistake of their lives,” the report says.
On Sept. 5, Wright and Yamashita met Ferguson, who said Schoeller told him about the killing. The same day, the two DOW officers met Schoeller, who said he and Nye were on their way to go elk hunting and passed through the landfill on the way. Schoeller told them that Nye fired both shots, and the bear went up the ridgeline, the report says.
“They didn’t want to pursue the bear based on how dark it was getting and they didn’t have a pistol,” the report says. “[Schoeller] thought the meat would still be fine by the following morning. They had intended on coming back in the morning, were driving up valley toward the landfill around 5:30 a.m., saw the headlights on the property and never entered. They had planned on packing out the meat and taking it to the DOW office to get checked in.”
Schoeller also told officers that the plan was for Nye to get his bear license on Sept. 2 – the day the hunting season began, and the day they planned to turn over the carcass.
“Schoeller said that he had never done anything like this before and he thought his dad raised him right,” the report says. “The guilt drove him to come forward and confess. Both he and Nye had talked about it … trying to think of why they did it and they couldn’t think of a reason.”
Like Schoeller, Nye told authorities that the DOW was permitting hunting at the landfill and they saw this as an opportunity to shoot a bear. Nye also was apparently struck with a pang of guilt, based on the report, telling officers that “it’s been pretty hard because I know what I did. It would be one thing if I didn’t understand but I do, and I feel horrible about it.”
The two told wildlife officers they were experienced hunters and familiar with state hunting laws. The officers noted that “their decision to contact us and their cooperation was commendable and needed to be recognized.”
Both Schoeller are Nye were cited for unlawful taking of wildlife, hunting outside an established season, failing to reasonably attempt for and provide for the human consumption of edible portions, and failing to immediately go to the location of wildlife that was shot.
Wright declined to talk specifically about the case, but said that the landfill has been rife with bear visits, with up to 15 bruins visiting the location daily.
The frequency of the visits has been a challenge for the DOW, which has considered putting electric fencing around the entire landfill. The problem with that, Wright said, is that it only diverts the problem, and the bears potentially could relocate to Aspen Village, a nearby subdivision off of Highway 82. Another alternative, hazing – the use of bean bags, rubber buckshots and rubber slugs, among other methods – has proved ineffective, as the bears have become conditioned to the tactic, Wright said.
“The other option has been to try to knock down the bear population through the established hunting season,” Wright said, “with people required to have a license and doing it in a safe manner.”
The hunting is permitted, obviously, when the landfill is closed to the public, Wright said.
Rifle season for bears runs Sept. 2 through Nov. 18. The muzzleloader season ran Sept. 8-16, while the archery season ran Sept. 2-23.
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