Crestone cubs grow amid debate over whether mother bear's killing was justifiable (PHOTOS)

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bear cub cropped.jpg
Big pics below.
On August 25, a mother bear with two cubs was shot on a ranch in Crestone by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer.

The cubs were rescued and are growing at a facility near Silt even as Crestone residents continue to wonder if the bear's killing qualifies as justifiable homicide or a case of mistaken identity.

Animal Law Center attorney Jennifer Edwards, who's in touch with the Crestoners, tells the story far differently than does Randy Hampton, spokesman for the CPW. First, her version.

"A mother bear was killed on the property of Elaine Johnson, who'd been watching the bear and her two cubs the entire summer," she says. "The bears had become a kind of precious thing in Crestone. Everyone knew who they were, and everyone loved watching the mother nurse her babies. But then a Wildlife officer came onto her property and shot the mother bear."

Why? "The department claimed the bear had killed a goat, but Elaine and the rest of the community knows it didn't."

Animal Law Center
Wildlife officials took the bear's cubs, described by Edwards as "a male and a female who was small for her age. Elaine knew she didn't have a high chance of survival if they weren't put into a good facility. So she got in touch with us, and I put in some calls, and reached Nanci Limbach at the Pauline Schneegas Wildlife Foundation outside Silt, and had them moved there.

"When they got there, they initially had some parasites. But they've now been treated and they're clear of that -- and they're putting on a lot of weight. The female is still smaller than the male and extraordinarily timid, almost meek. She's not as aggressive to get her food; the male pushes her out of the way. But they both still need more weight." Once they do, they'll be placed in a dugout-style den while in hibernation state, with the idea that when they awaken this next February or so, they'll be able to immediately reenter the wild.

In the meantime, Edwards says her office is exploring legal options in regard to the killing of the mother bear: "People in Crestone are not happy with what happened down there, and they want to pursue some sort of action, if possible." Meanwhile, Edwards shares speculation that the Wildlife department is too trigger happy when it comes to bear-related issues. "When I called around looking for places for these cubs, everyone was full, and the department facility alone had 23 bear cubs, which is just astounding," she maintains. "There shouldn't be this many orphaned cubs."

CPW's Hampton agrees with this sentiment, but not much else mentioned by Edwards. The shooting was about much more than just killing a goat, he says. Likewise, he argues that dark implications about an open season on mother bears simply aren't supported by the facts.

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The mother bear was killed on my ranch.  The killing of this mother should never have occurred and the DOW has tried, since that time, to justify their actions.  There are now in excess of 30 orphaned bear cubs and the fate of all of these mother bears cannot be adequately explained by the DOW.  This is unacceptable.  The people of Colorado need to demand accountability from the DOW, who is entrusted to protect OUR wildlife.  We need to have zero tolerance for the killing of bears with nursing cubs.  Thank you for the story. Elaine Johnson    

Crystal Niedzwiadek
Crystal Niedzwiadek

If you live in bear country you should learn to live with them and not against them. This was a cruel act for one alleged incident. 


I spend a lot of time in Crestone and those people are crazy.  there is no way they could have known which bear was the one causing the disturbance.  Plus, what the officer said about trash being a problem is absolutely true.  Those people are some of the dirtiest people when it comes to their trash.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Elaine, thanks for the post, which we're going to make an upcoming Comment of the Day. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

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