More bear hunting licenses issued as a population management plan
There were 405 additional bear licenses available this fall for the area that includes Aspen as state wildlife officials try to use hunting as a way to manage the bruin population.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife made 1,035 bear licenses available, compared to 630 last year, within a “bear analysis unit” that stretches from north of Vail, west to Glenwood Springs and south to Aspen, according to wildlife division spokesman Randy Hampton.
The 405 additional licenses doesn’t mean there will be that many additional dead bears. History shows bear hunters have a 5 percent success rate in the area. Last year, for example, 33 bears were “harvested” among the 630 available licenses.
However, more licenses will be issued for the earliest season, when bear hunting is most successful, Hampton said, so the success rate in the Aspen area is expected to top 5 percent this season. There is an expected harvest of 81 bears through the game unit Aspen is part of, he said.
Hampton said the wildlife division is making more of the additional licenses available in the part of the game unit that includes Aspen and the upper Roaring Fork Valley. Hunting activity in that part of the sprawling game unit has dwindled for various reasons.
“What we were finding was most of the harvest was up in the northern part of the unit, in the Vail area,” he said.
The Aspen area has experienced many bear-human conflicts in recent years, particularly when natural food sources faltered. The pressure eased this year because of abundant natural food sources after the lack of a late frost and a rainy summer.
Hampton said increased hunting isn’t directly intended to reduce bear-human conflicts, although that could be a result. Instead, the wildlife division has determined the bruin population in the area is “probably higher” than what the habitat can support, Hampton said. There is a multipronged approach to management, with the number of hunting licenses issued being an important tool.
A reduced population, more in line with the carrying capacity of the habitat, could end up easing future bear-human conflicts, Hampton said.
The wildlife division staff recommended the increase in bear licenses in March. The proposal was approved by the Wildlife Commission, the governing board on wildlife issues, in May.
There is currently a black bear rifle limited season, with licenses issued by draw, which ends Sept. 30. Archery season for black bear goes through Sept. 25. Hunters who hold a deer and elk license can get a bear license for the same unit or units, with the seasons concurrent with deer and elk seasons.
The first limited elk rifle season is Oct. 15-19. The combined deer and elk, second season, is Oct. 22-30. The combined third season is Nov. 5-13, and the fourth season is Nov. 16-20.
Deer and elk archery season goes until Sept. 25. Deer and elk muzzle-loading rifle season ends Sept. 18.
Moose rifle season is Oct. 1-14.
Hampton said about 200 bear licenses remained available as of Friday. A spring bear hunt was banned by Colorado voters in the mid-1990s.
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