Steamboat Springs An adult male bear was shot and killed in an alley in downtown Steamboat Springs on Monday night.
Jim Haskins, area manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said officers are treating the killing as a crime and investigating who shot the 200 to 300 pound bear.
Haskins said the bear was going through trash in the alleyway parallel to Eighth and Ninth streets, between Pine and Aspen streets, when someone shot it in the head.
"It's not like a situation where someone was protecting human life or property or anything like that," he said.
Towny Anderson, who lives next door to the driveway where the bear was shot, said he heard a gunshot at about 10 to 10:15 p.m.
"I heard the gunshot, which was pretty loud, pretty distinctive, and I looked out the window and saw the overturned garbage can," he said.
He also saw the dead bear lying next to an overturned garbage can. Anderson said he did not see who shot the bear.
"It's a bit shocking for anybody who lives in the neighborhood that someone would shoot a gun," he said.
Anderson said overturned garbage cans aren't a new problem in the alley but said that doesn't mean the bear should be shot.
"I just have a real hard time with this," he said. "It's a people problem."
Haskins said this bear had been known to get into trash in the alley, but neighbors nearby told him that the bear was not a major concern.
"My understanding is that the neighbors in the area had not been having trouble with bears where this bear was shot. At this point, we don't have reason to believe this was a regular occurrence in the area," he said.
Bear shootings are not unheard of in rural areas, Haskins said, but he could not remember any other case when a bear had been shot in town.
A person legally can shoot a bear if they are a licensed hunter, a landowner protecting livestock or if they are acting in self-defense, Haskins said.
Haskins said the trash container was bear-resistant, not bear-proof. A carabiner secured the closed lid, but Haskins said the bear was able to get inside.
Another bear call, presumably about the same bear, was reported nearby at 10 p.m. Anderson called police at 10:13 p.m.
The person who shot the bear faces "many thousands of dollars in fines," Haskins said, and potentially jail time, depending on how the case is prosecuted.
The bear first will be kept as evidence and examined as part of the investigation, then it will be skinned, Haskins said. The pelt will be used for education or may be sold at a Division of Wildlife auction to raise funds.
Steamboat Springs Police Department officers also responded to the call. Capt. Joel Rae said the police will assist Division of Wildlife officers however they can.