A sad thing that was preventable, said a spokesperson with Colorado Park and Wildlife Thursday after a bear was shot in a Colorado Springs neighborhood Thursday morning.
But likely not an incident that will result in any charges: officials say that based on the investigation, the man who fired the weapon acted in self-defense.
According to CPW spokesperson Kyle Davidson, a man living in the Rockrimmon area shot the bear after it broke into his backyard. The man told authorities that he tried to shoo it away by banging pots and pans and throwing things at it, but nothing worked.
That's when he said he grabbed his pistol.
"It was a very small backyard. The bear broke through his fence...the homeowner tried to scare the bear away, get the bear away from his house. When those efforts didn't work, he felt he needed to protect his home and his family at that point," CPW Wildlife Officer Steve Cooley explained.
Cooley said the homeowner fired at the bear once, fatally injuring it. After the shooting, the man called 911 and reported the incident.
"One of our wildlife officers went up and looked at it. It was mortally wounded. [He] ended up euthanizing the bear at that point."
The bear was reported anywhere between 15 and 20 years old, and was 550 pounds. Cooley attributed the large size to easy access to food sources it shouldn't be having.
"For a Colorado Springs neighborhood? A bear that size isn't all that uncommon, unfortunately," Cooley said when asked if it was unusual for a black bear to weigh that much. "Out in the wild, where they should be feeding on natural food sources, a bear that size is definitely out of the ordinary."
The reality for Colorado Springs residents, particularly those living west of the interstate, is that their homes do encroach on wild animals' turf. Bear sightings are a frequent occurrence for people living in the Rockrimmon area, where the homeowner lives. 11 News spoke to a neighbor who has seen the deceased bear roaming the area before.
"[Bears] come around in the spring or fall because they're hungry. And people have trash out...that's why they attract so many," Jen Johnson said.
"[That particular bear] was pawing down my fence latch, and I just kind of yelled at him and it left," she added.
Another Rockrimmon resident, Jo Ann Medina, faces charges for allegedly feeding area bears for years; wildlife officials say she would deliberately leave food out and even purchase food specifically for the bears. Cooley didn't discount the possibility that the bear killed Thursday morning was one of the bears she would feed.
"Given the proximity. It is a possibility that this bear had been to her house. We don't know that for sure, but the fact this bear was coming in and it was accustomed to people, wasn't frightened and was coming in for trash,” Cooley said.
Just west of the Denver metro in Evergreen, a man shot and killed two cubs last month after the baby bears and their mama got on his property. In that case, Daniel Williams claimed he was protecting his dog, which had gotten out and was chasing after the bears. Williams is facing charges, the Rockrimmon homeowner involved involved in the Thursday shooting is not. Cooley explained that each case is handled differently based on its own merits.
"We look at the facts of the case. Not only what the homeowner says, but we'll also look at where the bear was shot, how the bear was shot, what the circumstances were. We won't just take one person's word that they felt scared; we'll look at the entire case. Given the facts that we have at this point, we are treating [Thursday's shooting] as self-defense, but as with anything else, we'll continue to gather information and facts."
When asked if the homeowner would have been sufficiently protected if he'd just remained inside his house, Cooley said not necessarily.
"The backyard is extremely small, and given the fact that the bear is breaking in through a fence in very close proximity to this backyard, there's essentially no room. This bear was not leaving, not reacting to anything."
Cooley said this was a sad example of why Springs residents need to do their part in keeping bears from getting into their trash.
"When we talk about bears becoming habituated to humans, this is exactly what we are talking about. A bear that' habituated to people no longer has a fear of people. Banging pots and pans, yelling, screaming, airhorns are going to have no effect on a bear that has made the connection that: 'People are going to feed me.' Whether it be setting out dog food intentionally, or a trash can that's being set out by an owner that simply doesn't care."
Cooley said the homeowner in this case did not properly store his trash. A neighbor who lives in the same complex acknowledged that the complex does not have big bear-proof trash bins for residents.
"It's not [just] a problem for this complex, it's a problem city-wide," Cooley said.