I am writing in response to the Tim Kobasic article that appeared in your newspaper where he accuses me of "turning a simple project into a political Pandora's box". Since Kobasic was never involved at any time, I wonder where his great knowledge of the situation came from.
The facts are this: Area residents around the Delta County Airport organized a few years ago and complained that the county was shooting deer inside the airport fence and wanted it stopped. At that time a commitment was made by Delta County commissioners to fix the fence and if possible remove animals (alive) that got inside. Since that time two deer drives were conducted by the Conservation District to drive deer out.
On Sept. 22 a bear was spotted inside the fence. Since organizing a bear drive seemed to be out of the question by citizen volunteers, borrowing a trap from the DNR seemed like a logical alternative. I told the county I would contact the DNR on their behalf and request a trap and Connie (airport manager) would request a shooting permit just in case the bear could not be trapped.
On Sept. 24 Craig Albright of the DNR was contacted and asked if they could bring a bear trap to the airport. He was also given an explanation of the situation and reason for the request. Albright said that they couldn't bring a trap because of money and time scheduling problems. I then requested if the Conservation District could borrow the trap and we would handle the situation ourselves. Albright then said that they could not loan the trap out because the last person that borrowed it smashed their finger (turned out to be a DNR employee finger), I then reminded him of the DNR's new volunteer program that was legislatively enacted so that volunteers could use their equipment with no liability to the state. Albright then said he would contact his superiors and get back with me.
A few days later I contacted Albright again and was told that because of bear biology the DNR would not bring the trap to the airport and would not loan it out. He said that they based their decision on the fact that the bear had probably already left on its own. I asked him if he would be willing to do a site visit with me to look for fresh tracks to confirm whether the bear was still there or not. He said he did not have time and if the bear was still inside to just shoot it. At this point I realized that the DNR would be no help at all and reported back to Delta County Commissioner Harrington.
Commissioner Harrington then got involved herself with calls to Albright and Senator Casperson. Upon receiving no help from local DNR staff and being told that she (Harrington) and I (Mattson) did not have any authority to request the trap, Harrington finally contacted DNR Director Keith Creagh who then authorized the trap to be placed at the airport. Upon placement of the trap by the DNR (late October), Commissioner Harrington was told that if the bear was trapped the DNR had to shoot the bear by policy. Harrington once again called Director Creagh, repeated what she had been told, and the director issued an order that if caught the bear would not be shot but relocated.
In closing, Kobasic asked who would pay for this and who would assume responsibility/liability because he didn't want his license dollars paying for it. If the trap would have been loaned to the District, we would have!
And by the way, all is well for the bear because of the help of local hunters who lured the bear out of the airport the first part of October.
Delta Conservation District