Bear was legally killed in Castle Pines, officials say

Two cubs located, third one remains missing

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife has closed its investigation into the case of a bear that was shot and killed in Castle Pines on June 27.

Although the shooting was legal, a release said, the individual was cited for keeping bird feeders that CPW officials recommended they remove in 2016 and 2017. Officers believe the feeders attracted the bear to the home.

The animal was with three cubs at the time of the incident. Two have been found and taken to a rehabilitation facility. The third cub was not found and is presumed dead.

The agency confirmed on June 30 it identified the individual responsible for the shooting. It has not named he or she amid safety concerns, according to a release. 

The Castle Pines resident told CPW officers the evening of June 28 he or she shot the bear at approximately 1 a.m. on June 27, fearing it was attempting to enter their home.

State statute permits people to use lethal force against a bear if they feel their personal safety is threatened. If a bear is killed, they must report the incident within five days.

They were cited with a misdemeanor for failing to take remedial action to avoid contact or conflict with a bear, pursuant to a CPW regulations.  Investigators found four bird feeders within six feet of the home. The  individual paid for their citation and planned to send a contribution to the center where the orphaned cubs are being held.

The person discovered the bear on their property after hearing a noise in their backyard. They found the bear standing outside a kitchen window that had been left open, with its paws on the window. 

The resident got a handgun from a nearby room and fired at the bear, which ran off.  The cubs remained in the backyard. The individual reloaded the gun  with rubber buckshot and fired at the cubs to scare them off, fearing the mother would return if they stayed, the release says.

The resident did not believe the pellets used to shoot the adult bear would kill it, only scare it. They told CPW they didn't realize the bear died until June 28  when they came home to find a news reporter in their driveway who was investigating the shooting. 

The body of the bear was located approximately 250 yards from the home on June 28. Wildlife officers performed a necropsy.

Spokesman Jason Clay said July 1 the cubs were born in a den last winter. Odds for the missing cub's survival were “not good,” he said.

“A cub of that age does need its mother still,” he said.

The two captured animals are now in the care of Frisco Creek, a wildlife rehabilitation facility operated by CPW near Del Norte.

The facility mimics conditions an animal would face in the wild to prepare it for rerelease. Contact with humans is minimized. The bears live in a secure enclosure with other bears to help them develop physically and socially. Feeding patterns follow what they would experience before and during hibernation.

CPW Northeast Region Manager Mark Leslie said the case highlights challenges of managing wildlife along the Front Range. Black bears are thriving in Colorado, and the Front Range provides good bear habitat. Natural food sources are ample, but bears are frequently attracted to neighborhoods by trash left outdoors, bird feeders, pet food and the smell of grills.

Leslie urged Colorado residents to refrain from using bird feeders or putting trash out the night before pick-up days. 

"If there is any good that can  come out of this case, it would be that maybe behaviors change. If it does not, it can and does lead to the unwarranted death of our bears," Leslie said. 

This story has been updated with new information released in the incident. 

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