KILLINGTON — Two men have been cited by state game wardens for allegedly illegally shooting two black bears.
Aaron Roucoulet, 20, and Scott Keefer, 24, both of Killington, were issued citations Aug. 22 accusing them of taking a bear by illegal means in the beginning of the month, according to state Fish & Wildlife officials.
A bear was found dead in the backyard of Wade Collins, a Killington resident. Collins said he found the bear because of the smell and called the Fish & Wildlife Department when he discovered it.
Warden Tim Carey responded to the scene and determined the bear on the property had been shot and killed with a rifle.
During the investigation, Killington Town Clerk Lucrecia Wonsor said although no official complaints had been made about the shooting, it was a hot topic in town because not only was it against the law, but the incident occurred in a residential area.
After obtaining a search warrant, wardens discovered enough evidence to issue the citations, officials said.
They also discovered that the dead bear was not the only bear that had been shot.
Col. David LeCours of the Fish & Wildlife Department said Keefer and Roucoulet both admitted shooting a bear, but only one had been found. LeCours said he was told the other had run off.
Wardens do not yet know which of the two men shot the bear that had been found, LeCours said.
LeCours said that it was against the law to shoot a bear for being on residential property or rummaging through trash without first taking measures to discourage the animal.
“It’s required by law to secure trash cans to discourage them,” LeCours said. “And then if it continues to happen, you then have the right to shoot. But even then it’s a legal requirement to report the shooting to game wardens. None of that happened with this case.”
LeCours said there was no evidence of Keefer and Roucoulet taking preventative actions against the bears getting into the garbage and that they failed to make a report once they had shot the bears.
LeCours also said had they made the report, they could have taken appropriate steps in locating the injured animals. Instead, one died in Collins’ backyard and the other was unaccounted for.
“At this point, it’s too late to look for the bear,” LeCours said. “Which is just too bad. It’s upsetting that this happened.”
The law against shooting bears without preventative measures has only been in effect since the winter of 2013, when it also became illegal to intentionally feed bears. Before then, homeowners had the right to shoot bears that wandered onto or disrupted their property.
Forrest Hammond, the Fish & Wildlife Department’s bear project leader, has addressed the issue many times in the past.
“The only way to deal with a problem bear is to remove whatever is attracting it in the first place,” Hammond said, addressing the issue of the growing bear sightings in the state in a recent Vermont Fish and Wildlife news release.
Fish & Wildlife resources have tips available on the department’s website about what bears are attracted to and how to reduce the attraction to such things as garbage, pet food and bird feeders. Securing trash and feeding pets inside can help reduce bear encounters.
Bears are also very hard to relocate once they’ve found a source of food and will travel hundreds of miles back to a specific area, Hammond said.
“Prevention is really the key,” he said.
Killington Police Chief Whit Montgomery said that its part of living in a wooded area and that people just need to take extra steps in dissuading bears.
Montgomery said that restaurants and homeowners have been using Dumpsters designed by Casella Waste Systems that are made of metal instead of plastic.
“I used to get calls about bears on a very regular basis,” Montgomery said. “It’s gotten much less consistent now that people are taking precautions. And it’s worth it.”
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