Instead of reducing hunter interest in black bears, a referendum that outlawed spring bear hunts, baiting and the use of hounds in Colorado seems to have piqued more interest in bear hunting than existed before voters passed the measure in 1992.
In 1994, only 2,000 hunters mailed applications to the Colorado Division of Wildlife for September bear hunting permits. But with the spring season eliminated from the options, the number of applications for fall swelled to 5,900 in 1995. This year 7,700 people applied to hunt bears in September.
Last year, the hunters killed 535 black bears, compared with an average of 502 bears for 1986-1992.
Over-the-counter license sales also have risen for later, unlimited hunts, indicating that more elk and deer hunters also are packing bear licenses.
The state sold no more than 2,500 unlimited bear licenses annually during the 1980s. But in 1994, bear hunters bought 5,266 unlimited licenses. Last year, 7,186 unlimited bear licenses were sold.
The main target of the voter ban was the spring season, which resulted in some nursing cubs being orphaned when sows were killed shortly after emerging from their dens in spring. But the new data show that fall hunters are killing more, not fewer, sows than when they hunted in spring.
According to division bear biologist Tom Beck, a total of 21 more female bears have been killed in the three years following Amendment 10 than in the three previous years.
The reason, he suggests, is that boars are more active in spring, while females emerge from dens later. Fall hunting is less selective.
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