Man allegedly baits, kills bear
A Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy arrested a man Sunday on suspicion of baiting and killing a bear whose meat he allegedly left to waste after skinning and beheading it. Craig Miller, 44, of Little Canada, Minn., was charged with felony willful destruction of big-game wildlife and a misdemeanor charge of baiting wildlife. The felony count has possible fines of $1,000 to $20,000 and loss of wildlife license privileges for one year to life. Miller, from his home, declined to comment. He was released from custody on a $3,500 bond.An arrest report, filed Tuesday in Pitkin County District Court, states that Miller called the state Division of Wildlife to get the hide certified. That call led to the arrest. “It’s a regulation that if you shoot a bear, you need that hide checked and sealed by DOW,” said agency spokesman Tyler Baskfield. “He probably actually brought it in. It’s possible, that in an effort to look on the up and up, he tried to get the hide sealed.”John Groves, a district wildlife manager with the DOW, cited Miller on Sept. 2, the first day of bear bow-hunting season. Groves would not confirm whether Miller shot the bear out of season, but he did say the meat had already gone to waste by the day of the arrest.”There are very few felonies for wildlife stuff,” Groves said. “What this case comes down to is willful destruction of wildlife. This guy went out, hunted, baited and killed the bear for its hide.”Groves said he found dog and cat food in the area where Miller was allegedly hunting, near Prince Creek Road south of Carbondale. That area is in the wildlife management district that includes most of Pitkin County. The archery season for bears runs from Sept. 2-23. There are five, week-long rifle seasons that begin Sept. 8, and the last one ends Nov. 18. A resident bear-hunting license costs $41 and a nonresident license costs $251. Baskfield said hunters must use the meat from a hunt and baiting is strictly prohibited. Eight bears – five male and three female – were legally killed by hunters in 2006. The DOW has killed seven bears in Pitkin County this year for repeatedly breaking into homes. The trouble is likely to worsen with what is a bad natural food year. On Wednesday afternoon, Aspen police picked up a bear cub that had evidently been abandoned, and a mother with two cubs caused officials to rope off the park behind City Hall for the afternoon. “The fact that he’s baiting adds to the bear problems we have in that area,” Baskfield said. “The city of Aspen is ticketing people for leaving their garbage out, and he’s intentionally feeding bears. It’s an ethical question, and we’re not going to stand for it here.” Miller is due to appear Monday, Sept. 10, in Pitkin County District Court.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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