CASTLE PINES, Colo. – In a place people live to be near nature, wildlife are a part of life.
“We’ll have deer that will literally walk up in our yard,” said Joe Oltmann, who lives in a quiet Castle Pines neighborhood. “We have culvert that starts down there, so this is actually a place that deer, bear, everyone hangs out.”
So it was not uncommon when Oltmann saw a bear family wandering in his neighborhood earlier this week.
“The cubs started hanging around the house, literally yesterday,” said Oltmann, who said he became concerned this morning because the mother was missing.
He called Colorado Parks and Wildlife and made a disturbing discovery.
“It was literally a hundred yards from my front yard, not even a hundred yards,” he said. “I was pissed.”
He found the mother bear dead at the base of a tree with two of her cubs waiting in the branches above her.
“We had seen three cubs earlier in the week, but we never found the third,” he said.
Wildlife officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife shot video as they set up traps for the young cubs, who they estimate had not eaten in 36 hours.
“They had the traps down below [the tree], and they used a little food to bait them in there,” said Jason Clay, a spokesman with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “They walk in and when they grab - you can see in the video they grab kind of the bait bag, and then that pulls the trap closed.”
Investigators will perform a necropsy on the sow to determine how she died, but if she was illegally killed it could be a serious crime.
“Jail time is a possibility,” said Clay. “Poaching is a very serious crime and one that we don’t take lightly and our officers work really hard to investigate it.”
Clay said it is still uncertain how the sow died, and if she was intentionally killed, if it were in self-defense or in defense of livestock in imminent danger, it could be legal.
The two cubs are headed across the state to a wildlife rehabilitation center in southwest Colorado.
While CPW officials are asking anyone with information to come forward, neighbors have started a GoFundMe to raise money for a reward.
Meanwhile, for Oltmann, this is personal. He is offering a separate $2,500 reward from his own money for answers.
“I think he should just come forward. We’re going to find out who he is. It’s just a matter of time,” said Oltmann. “Any hunter knows, any person knows you don’t shoot a mama bear when it has its cubs — you just don’t. You just don’t do it.”