Boulder Bear No. 317: another bear who shouldn’t have to die

The Daily Camera, a local newspaper in Boulder, CO recently reported that a black bear living in Boulder, CO, who is referred to as “Boulder Bear No. 317,” has a kill-order over her head: the next time she is reported as being a “nuisance,”  Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officers will be ordered to kill her. What’s more is that this bear is a mother to two cubs (approximately 7 months old) who will then be motherless. After their mother is killed, her offspring will be taken to a bear rehabilitation facility and, at some point, the bears will be released back into the mountains.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife to kill black bear

Note: this is not a photo of Boulder Bear No. 317

The Daily Camera reports that Boulder Bear No. 317 and her offspring have been spotted, on more than one occasion, in the Goose Creek and Edgewood Drive neighborhoods of north-central Boulder. One resident allegedly has been chased by the bear and another claims to have been charged at while on his front porch. After various complaints about the bear were reported to CPW, Bear No. 317 was deemed to be “dangerous” and a “threat to human safety” and, as a result,  CPW has been “ordered” to kill her the next time someone reports her for “bear misconduct.”

Despite that one man even “offered cash to cover the cost of relocating the bears hundreds of miles away,” the decision to kill Boulder Bear No. 317 is said to be nonnegotiable, as CPW officer, Larry Rogstad, has declined this life-saving offer. After all, once an adult bear is tagged for “bad behavior,” CPW is “required” to kill the bear if “disruptive behavior persists.”

While residents of the Goose Creek and Edgewood Drive are quick to report how “nervous” or “threatened” they feel by Boulder Bear No. 317, what they aren’t so quick to report is how their actions have caused this bear to become attracted to their neighborhoods in the first place. Namely, their failure to abide by the city’s trash storage code has encouraged Bear No. 317 to associate their neighborhoods with food.

The city’s trash storage code states, among other rules, that curbside pickup of trash and/or compost cannot be left outside prior to 5 a.m. the morning of trash pick-up and that trash containers should not be overflowing with garbage and/or compost. Yet, it has been reported that the majority of residents leave their compost and trash outside, in overflowing containers, at all times. Consequently, Bear No 317 has become habituated to eating trash and, as a result, she now associates these residential areas with food.

Furthermore, Brenda Lee of the Boulder Bear Coalition reports that code enforcement of Boulder has failed to enforce the city’s trash storage code, which, if followed properly, should deter bears from visiting Boulder neighborhoods. According to Lee, code enforcement officers are rarely, if ever, seen out on the streets, ticketing residents who are evidently in violation of the city’s code. Furthermore, when code enforcement officers do take any sort of action against those who violate the ordinance, they often respond by giving mere “warnings” to the residents instead of tickets.

(It’s also important to note that select areas of Boulder are required to abide by an additional ordinance, the bear protection ordinance, which requires that all garbage be placed in bear-resistant trash bins (in addition to the other rules contained within the city’s trash storage code). Yet, code enforcement failed to properly monitor these areas and didn’t start to ticket violators of the ordinance until September 2, 2015. As a result of residents not complying with this ordinance and code enforcement not enforcing it, bears who are further east may now be habituated to eating trash in the Bear Protection Ordinance Zone and might continue to venture further east to find more.)

Brenda Lee

The trash in a University-Hill neighborhood in Boulder, CO that evidently is not bear-proof.


Community Responsibility

Whenever there is a human-wildlife conflict, it almost always can be traced back to something humans have done to provoke the conflict. Human-bear conflicts are essentially the fault of humans: we choose to live in bear country, but don’t bother to properly secure our trash. We continue to leave grills in our backyards that are covered in food residue. We insist upon hanging hummingbird feeders outside of our homes, which are known to attract bears. We leave our windows open when we leave our homes, knowing that a bear very well might enter our homes and raid the cupboards and refrigerators. We leave food in our vehicles, which is easily accessible to bears. Through our carelessness and recklessness, we teach bears to associate humans with food. We encourage them to enter “our” neighborhoods. And, then, when we decide that they “threaten, scare, or endanger us” by “getting too close” to us or our homes, we lament being “forced” to kill them (or we “lament” reporting the bear to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who will be “forced” to kill the bear).

When will we begin to take responsibility for our actions? When will we learn that we ought to do everything in our power to prevent these conflicts from occurring in the first place, given that we, and not the bears, are the ones with the opportunity to avoid them altogether?

We have fostered a culture of response rather than prevention. We don’t bother to prevent these human-wildlife conflicts because we know that, at the end of the day, there will be a “solution” to the conflict that always favors human beings. We know that, regardless of how much our messes attract animals who “scare” us, we will always be safe from these so-called threats. We know that Wildlife Services will come charging to our rescue, equipped with lethal machines, willing to use any amount of force that is deemed “necessary” to protect us, even if this means killing an innocent animal.

We don’t lose anything of significant importance by spending a little bit of time and energy cleaning up our messes. Yet, the animals lose everything when we fail to act responsibly.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife: An Agency of Death

Before closing, it’s worth noting that it is quite ironic that Larry Rogstad, a 34 year CPW veteran, claims to lament the fact that wildlife officers will be “forced” to kill Bear No. 317 who, according to him, is “a sentient creature, a magnificent animal. It’s an animal we spend our entire life admiring and trying to do good things for.” As he continues, “I wanted to be a wildlife officer since I was in third grade. I wanted it because I had a deep and abiding love for the outdoors and for making the world a better place. Now, we’re relegated to this position because people don’t care enough to store their trash.”

Yet, if Rogstad really wanted to make the world a better place for animals, he probably should have looked for employment elsewhere, as CPW is notorious for promoting the senseless killing of animals. If you visit the CPW’s homepage, the first thing you will see are advertisements about killing and a link that reads “Come hunt with us.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Colorado Parks and Wildlfe is centered upon the killing of magnificent, sentient animals. The salaries of the CPW officers and all equipment, drugs, and gas that are used to relocate and/or kill bears is funded by hunting licenses. With their advocacy of hunting, this organization promotes a culture of violence, which does not, by any means, “make the world a better place.” In addition, Marc Bekoff reports that CPW is currently “attempting to push through a controversial “study” that would involve killing significantly more numbers of mountain lions in hunting units in a portion of Colorado over a five-year span to see if they can increase the mule deer population for human hunters to kill.”

As a 34 year veteran of CPW, Rogstad should know that Colorado Parks and Wildlife is dedicated to facilitating the slaughtering of innocent animals and it is disingenuous for him to send the message that CPW officers are dedicated to “doing good things” for animals.

For more information about human-wildlife conflicts, visit the Animal Minds, Emotions, Conservation, and Ethics page.