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Homeowner shoots, kills bear in Vallecito

Wildlife officials say bruin was displaying aggressive behavior
This bear was shot and killed Sunday by a homeowner after displaying aggressive behavior and little fear of people, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say.

A homeowner in Vallecito on Sunday shot a bear displaying aggressive behavior and little fear of people, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

CPW spokesman Joe Lewandowski said the bear killed was the same one that was trapped and tagged at the Lake Haviland campground on June 29 after breaking into coolers and food left unsecured by people. At that time, the bear was not displaying aggressive behavior, he said, so it was trapped and moved north of Pagosa Springs.

When the bear showed up at Vallecito last week, it was showing aggressive behavior – killing chickens, turkeys and approaching people, Lewandowski said.

On Saturday, the approximately 2-year-old male bear came back and was spotted by the property owner. Lewandowski said the bear appeared to be stalking a 5-year-old boy in the yard. The property owner chased the animal off, but it showed little fear of people and came back later that night and killed more chickens.

Local wildlife officers set a trap at the property Sunday evening.

“Shortly after (the wildlife officer) drove off, the bear showed up again while the residents were doing some yard work,” Lewandowski said. “It came within 10 yards of them and was showing no fear of being near people.”

Around 8 p.m., the property owner shot and killed the bear. Lewandowski said he was “protecting his property so it was legal for him to kill the bear.”

Bryan Peterson with Bear Smart Durango said he saw the bear in question about an hour before it was shot, also getting into a neighbor’s chicken coop. He said it is imperative for residents raising chickens, small livestock, bees and more in bear country to use electric fencing.

“To keep bears from developing habits we don’t want, residents should be proactive and not wait until they have a bear in their chicken coop to address this,” he said. “No bear should lose its life due to chickens. Protect your investment, keep bears from lingering in your neighborhood and save bears.”

Lewandowski, too, said people living in bear country need to be vigilant by locking vehicle doors, closing garage doors and windows, as well as taking down bird feeders.

So far this year, CPW has had to euthanize only one bear. On June 9, a bear broke into a well-secured enclosure near Bayfield and killed chickens, Lewandowski said. It was trapped and euthanized.

Lewandowski said bears are active and wildlife officers are receiving reports daily of sightings and some property damage. He said most of the activity seems to be in unincorporated La Plata County, with a number of reports coming from around Vallecito.

Last week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bear Smart Durango and volunteers removed a food cache consisting of dozens of buckets of black-eyed peas, rice and powdered milk from a location near Vallecito Lake and cleaned up the area, Peterson said.

The building containing the food stash had collapsed during this winter’s heavy snowfall, and a good number of bears had been using the abundant food source.

“Trail cameras installed post-cleanup revealed less and less bears returning to the area with each passing day, with bears discovering the food was gone,” Peterson said. “Remove the food and bears move on.”

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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