Merriott

“I shot it as it was rummaging through my dog’s food.”

Wait, what?

“He charged me!” is often the defense. You were surprised when you shot a hungry bear from 15 feet away that it charged you? What will they do next, crap in the woods?

The 400-pound male bear in this scenario had not been tagged before — so he had not been in any trouble with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. So what on Earth could have happened to cause this totally unnecessary and deadly interaction?

Oh yeah, that’s right: The bears are getting ready to hibernate and are extra hungry, except this one was eating dog food, not people or pets. Why not just close the bedroom door and call CPW? Bears are known to eat this time of year, maybe 20 hours a day. It’s called hyperphagia and it is basically a compulsive eating disorder. We get to see our species participate in it at state fairs everywhere and sometimes even at local fast-food restaurants. (Oh right, maybe not in Aspen?)

This modern-day Davy Crockett said he’s “noticed the frequency of bear encounters in town (Steamboat Springs) this summer.” Makes you wonder what steps he took to minimize the chance a bear would come into his house as they get ready for hibernation. Did he take in his bird feeders and clean his grill? Don’t know, but he did admit to leaving his levered front door unlocked. He was later quoted as saying, “It would be helpful, in my opinion, if CPW could escalate their efforts in trapping these bears!”

Hey, guy, I think you are right — and I think there should be at least a $5,000 fine when common-sense rules for coexisting with wildlife are not followed and bears or other critters have to be put down as a result. Gee, I wonder when the last time a black bear walked in (not “broke in”) a house and euthanized the residents. Somehow, hungry black bears seem to evoke stark terror on a plane with the scene in “Missouri Breaks” with Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando. That, or you may have imagined you were still living in the crime-filled city you just moved from, perhaps? Wait, I’ve got it: Let’s relocate you and not the bears.

The fine proceeds could be dedicated to purchasing open space to keep all those trapped bears you are advocating for, or donated to the Pauline S Schneegas Wildlife Foundation which rehabilitates all species of wildlife if given the chance.

This takes me into the next heart-breaking black bear story recently in an Aspen paper: A sow and four small cubs were put down with no strikes against them. I have been lobbying for a three-strikes policy, if for no other reason as this euthanizing seems to be becoming another great American pastime. Sixty-three so far this year, I hear. Probably higher since this column was penned.

Will we ever learn? As I have said before, we are a stubborn people. Unfortunately, more often than not these days, it seems to be bordering on downright cruelty! To be clear, this isn’t on CPW. It’s on the homeowners who can’t manage their garbage and close and secure their downstairs doors and windows.

Again, the sow and her cubs did not break in; they came in through the proverbial bathroom window, Joe Cocker might say. And it was open to let in some fresh air, not closed and unlocked as was reported earlier.

We do have these things called fans, and they can literally move fresh air from open upstairs windows to the downstairs of the house — without having to kill five sentient beings only guilty of trying to eat before hibernation.

Cha-ching! Could have been another $25,000 in fines for more bear habitat, but I would rather have the bears alive as God intended. I hope you were able to view the pictures in the Aspen paper of cubs trying to get to their mom in the bear trap. It’s not euthanasi,a which is defined as the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or an irreversible coma. “The bears showed no fear and seemed to be domesticated,” the homeowner said, according to the newspaper report. The same way all the black bears I have come across in the wild act. The only thing here that seems incurable is human stupidity. This is so wrong on so many levels. We need more brainstorming sessions. This ain’t working. Too many people, too much lost habitat.

Frosty Merriott lives in Carbondale. Reach him at frosty@frostycpa.com.