A search by helicopter and ground crews turned up no evidence of grizzly bears on Independence Pass, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife has suspended the search, barring another sighting of the animals.
Two seasoned hunters reported spotting a grizzly and two cubs on Sept. 20 in the San Isabel National Forest near Independence Pass, east of Aspen.
The hunters, familiar with both black bears and grizzlies, were deemed credible witnesses and the DOW tried to confirm the presence of the bears. Grizzlies are not thought to inhabit Colorado, given the extent of human encroachment into what would be its habitat. One was last documented in the state in 1979.
“We probably won’t know anything until early spring,” DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said Thursday. If the agency gets a report of another sighting, though, its personnel could be back in the field, he said.
DOW representatives have declined to speculate on what the agency would do about the grizzlies if they are in the state.
“There’d be efforts to do due diligence to protect them,” Hampton said. “It’s hard to jump in and say what we’d do.”
The DOW has reminded black bear hunters that their Colorado bear license does not allow them to shoot a grizzly, which is an endangered species.
The rifle season for big game starts Oct. 14 and a variety of big- and small-game seasons continue through December.
Hunters are also reminded not to mistake a moose for an elk, or a lynx for a bobcat. Lynx, a threatened species, have been reintroduced to Colorado’s mountains; killing one could result in a serious fine and possible jail time, according to the DOW.
By Janet Urquhart
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