Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation Helps With Illegal Bear Baiting
By DAVE BUCHANAN The Daily Sentinel
Sunday, October 21, 2007
A case of illegal bear-baiting and the resultant fines have made an anti-hunting animal rights groups $500 richer.
An attorney for Craig Miller, 44, of Little Canada, Minn., told a Pitkin Country District Court judge earlier this week that Miller was “taking some shortcuts” during an abbreviated hunting trip to Colorado in late August when he baited and killed a black bear the day before bear season began.
In addition to killing the bear out of season, Miller pleaded guilty to baiting and abandoning the bear’s meat, both illegal in Colorado.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife levied fines for the infractions totalling $5,300, but District Court Judge Charles Buss also tacked on two years of unsupervised probation, revoked Miller’s hunting privileges for five years in Colorado and directed Miller to donate $500 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals instead of serving community service.
You might be familiar with Buss, who served locally before retiring several years ago. He was sitting on the Pitkin County court as a fill-in for the vacationing Judge James Boyd.
Why Buss chose a fringe group to profit from a stupid mistake is anyone’s guess, but perhaps no one is more confounded by Buss’ inexplicable largesse than ethical hunters and the DOW.
Fines from wildlife violators usually go toward wildlife management and education, and in this case it would seem there are plenty of local causes that might use $500, particularly with the scourge of bear problems recently confronting Aspen.
“Judge Buss didn’t consult with us or we would have suggested something that would address some local issues,” DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said. “We’re not going to criticize the judge’s decision, but if he had asked us, we would have suggested other uses for the money, such as purchasing bear-proof trash cans or contributing the money to the Pauline Schneegas Wildlife Foundation.”
It’s doubtful any wild animals actually will benefit from the PETA donation, since the group seems to do little but campaign for funds and promote vegetarianism. PETA spokeswoman Daphna Nachminovitch told Aspen Times reporter Joel Stonington that the money would go into the anti-hunting group’s general fund.
You think they’ll make a donation to the Schneegas Wildlife Foundation?
The foundation, formerly known as the Western Colorado Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, is south of Silt and among its current feathered and furred residents are 16 bear cubs, preparing them for the time they will be returned to the wild.
According to the not-for-profit foundation’s Web site, www.schneegaswildlifefoundation.org, since 1984 the center has rehabilitated and released 4,500 wild animals. The center also is permanent home to some animals that can’t be returned to the wild, including two wolves and a couple of “resident” mountain lions.
The center spends $4,400 a month feeding its animals, says Executive Director Nanci Limbach.
“We figured it out one time and came up with $8 to $10 a day” for bear cubs, Limbach said. “That’s probably pretty low since I’m figuring in the donations we get.”
Limbach said a young bear can eat up to 30 pounds of food a day getting ready for hibernation. Some of the younger and more sickly bear are fed applesauce and yogurt until their digestive systems are healthy.
“It’s expensive feeding a bear,” Limback said. “With all these people in Aspen feeding the bears illegally, if they want to feed a bear, why not give us a donation and feed them legally?”
According to reports in Aspen newspapers, Miller’s attorney, John Van Ness of Woody Creek, told Buss that Miller was attempting to cut short his hunting trip to Colorado and decided to lure in a bear with bait, an action Miller acknowledged he knew was illegal.
The DOW report says Miller used canned dog and cat food to lure in the bear, which he shot with an arrow. He was ticketed after he attempted to obtain a seal from DOW, which is necessary to have taxidermey work done on the bear hide. Investigation by wildlife officers turned up Miller’s offenses.
Buss’ authority allowed him to revoke Miller’s hunting privileges only in Colorado, but pending a hearing with the DOW, Miller might lose hunting privileges in 24 other states as well.
Colorado is one of 25 states belonging to the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact and the member states recognize hunting and fishing suspensions meted out by the other states. Hampton said Miller will have a hearing to determine the extent of his revocation.
Dave Buchanan can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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