Steamboat Springs An Eighth Street resident admitted to killing a bear in downtown Steamboat Springs on July 20, but he said the shot was intended only to scare the bear away.
Kent Nightwalker said he intended to shoot into the dirt to scare the bear away from the alley behind his home. Instead, he said, he accidentally killed the 200- to 300-pound male bear. Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said officers are continuing their investigation and have not issued a citation in the case.
Nightwalker said he was loading his car for a planned business trip July 20 when a bear "popped up, 4 or 5 feet" in front of him and went after the trash in a neighbor's driveway at about 9:40 p.m.
Nightwalker said he slammed his car door, ran inside and called 911. The dispatcher reportedly told him to go inside and wait until the bear left the area. Call logs show a call was placed from Nightwalker's phone number at 9:59 p.m.
"But I was working; I was getting ready to leave town. I went inside, I packed my clothes, watched television for a few minutes, and he was still wrestling around with this trash can," Nightwalker said.
That's when Nightwalker got a rifle, which was a gun his father handed down to him and that Nightwalker described as a .248, and went outside. He said he did not want to "cower" in his home while the bear was outside.
"I brought it up. I was going to shoot down in the dirt near it to try to get it to leave," he said. "It was wrestling around with the trash can. I couldn't even see it; I could just see a little tiny bit of brown on its head."
The bear was "10 to 20 feet" away from Nightwalker, he said, and when he shot, he thought he missed because the bear continued to move. He said he then went back inside and decided to leave for his trip the next day.
A second call from a neighbor, reporting the dead bear, came at 10:13 p.m.
Nightwalker said nobody came to his house that night and that he did not know what was going on in the alley behind his home as police responded to the scene. The bear reportedly was shot in the back of the head just below the skull.
The next day, he said, he saw a trail of blood and realized he had shot the bear. He then left on the planned business trip to Montana.
Nightwalker said he is not a hunter and has never purchased a gun.
He said he could understand the skepticism of people who hear his story.
"People say 'When you walk out with a rifle, what's your intention?' Well my intention was to get that thing away from me. I hit it unintentionally," he said.
Nightwalker said he was frustrated with the bear digging through trash and was eager to leave for his trip.
"I wasn't trying to be some big person. I had business to take care of. There is a bear problem, and they're not going to make me cower in my own home," he said.
"It was a stupid fluke of luck that I hit that thing. It was probably stupid I even went out there," he said. "I am at fault, don't get me wrong. I chose to go out there and try to scare it off with a big rifle."
He said he has seen bears in the area before but has not called the police about this bear in the past. He said he has called about bears in other locations and was frustrated by the response.
Even so, he said that if he were confronted with another bear in the future he would not choose to confront it. Instead, he said, he would call the police and "badger them" until an officer responded.
When Nightwalker called 911 that night, the DOW was notified but did not go to the scene until after the second call reporting the bear had been shot.
DOW officers in cooperation with the 14th Judicial District attorney will decide what, if any, charges Nightwalker will face. Officers and prosecutors could issue a citation or charge him ranging up to felony level.
District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham said she expects a decision within the next week.