DENVER – The Legislature may let off only a faint growl this year on any effort to expand black-bear hunting.
After an attempt earlier this year stalled to allow hunting when the bears are most active, a Senate committee Tuesday backed a measure that simply would study the issue.
House Bill 1304 passed the Senate Local Government committee unanimously. It already passed the House by a wide 58-6 vote. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
The legislation would direct Parks and Wildlife to study the management of black bears to avoid bear-human conflicts.
“We have to remember that there’s two purposes for gathering the data,” said Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial, a co-sponsor of the legislation. “It’s not just to make humans’ lives better, but it’s also to protect bears.”
The Legislature has been trying to address the issue for at least four years. Rural Coloradans complain that the bear population is increasing, causing loss of livestock and dangerous encounters with the public.
But the issue is a tricky one to advance. Voters in 1992 prohibited the bear-hunting season from beginning before September. Voters also banned hunting with dogs or bait or killing bears with cubs.
Previous legislative attempts would have allowed an August hunt, while permitting Parks and Wildlife to authorize hunting from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31. Legislation also would have clarified that the use of scents is not baiting.
But facing opposition from wildlife advocates, lawmakers defaulted to the study.
“We certainly do acknowledge there are problems,” said Bob Broscheid, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We have a growing bear population; we have a growing human population. That will result in new encounters.”