Ex-landfill worker pleads guilty in bear-shooting case
A Carbondale man Tuesday pleaded guilty to four charges related to the September killing of a black bear at the Pitkin County Landfill.
Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely ordered Jesse Schoeller, 26, to pay $2,879.50, plus court costs. Schoeller pleaded guilty to 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 the location where the animal was shot.
While Schoeller did not use the bow and arrow to kill the bear – another person, Kaleb Nye, 26, of El Jebel, admitted to authorities that he shot it twice – an officer from Colorado Parks and Wildlife cited him for having a complicit role in the killing. Nye and Schoeller, who worked at the landfill at the time, visited the site after business hours on Sept. 1 when the bear was killed – one day before bear season began for both rifle and archery hunters. The two also did not have their bear-hunting licenses at the time it was killed.
Schoeller negotiated the plea with prosecutor Richard Nedlin about 90 minutes before Fernandez-Ely signed off on the deal.
Schoeller did not discuss details of the shooting with the judge. The hearing lasted less than five minutes. Nye was not required to appear in court because his case was closed after he paid the fine.
The county fired Schoeller from his landfill job on Sept. 10. The large bear, estimated to be 15 years old by wildlife officers, 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 had been foraging since the summer.
And on Sept. 4, Schoeller admitted to wildlife officers that he had and Nye had “made the biggest mistake of their lives,” according to a Parks and Wildlife report on the incident.
The fallout of the bear’s death continued last week when Chris Hoofnagle, the landfill’s manager, was fired from his post, the Aspen Daily News reported Monday.
District Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright, who attended Tuesday’s court hearing for Schoeller, said he is unaware of any bear hunting currently taking place at the landfill.
He said bear activity has waned at the landfill, where up to 15 bruins had been visiting the site daily for food. Parks and Wildlife officers had suggested that the landfill open up to hunters during non-business hours, which it did for a brief period.
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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