Evergreen man accused of fatally shooting two bear cubs speaks

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EVERGREEN, Colo. -- An Evergreen man accused of killing two bear cubs outside his home early Tuesday morning is speaking out.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has completed its investigation and is recommending Dan Williams, 50, be charged with a felony (illegal discharge of a weapon) and five misdemeanors (reckless endangerment; shooting from or across a public roadway; dogs harassing wildlife; illegal possession of wildlife; unlawful taking of a black bear out of season).

FOX31 Denver spoke with Williams as he arrived home late Wednesday morning. He was cordial and opened up about what happened early Tuesday morning.

It is a day he said he regrets, but he feels he acted in defense of his dog -- and in a way endorsed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

He said his intended target was the mother of two cubs that attacked and seriously injured his chocolate Labrador.

"I have the vet bills to prove it," Williams said.

He claims the bear swatted his dog against a tree, causing spinal and hip injuries. He said he didn’t mean to kill the cubs and he feels terrible about it.

But he also said he takes exception to the media’s use of the word “bullet.”

Investigators say Williams initially fired rubber buckshot at the two cubs to scare them away. But a live round killed them and pierced a neighbor’s window.

He claims he used birdshot instead of buckshot (a larger pellet). And he says he got it from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“They gave it to me to haze the bears. I’ve done it before. And my neighbors lauded me for scaring them away. I was doing it for the bears’ best interest,” Williams said.

He acknowledged writing a Facebook post four years ago in which he said, “Waxed a bear with some rubber buckshot this morning in our garage. Don’t think he’ll be back!! what a cool way to start the 4th weekend, Shootin’ a 12 gauge off at 5:30 a.m.!”

“Rubber buckshot was issued to this man last year by one of my officers. Anytime you are issued this, it’s kind of a last resort,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said.

She said you first have to remove attractants from your home like trash and bird feeders. Williams had both.

“The next step would be, if bears keep coming around to chase them off, and that would be using air horns, pots and pans, clapping your hands, something to let them know you don’t want them around,” Churchill said.

Churchill said you’re not allowed to attract the bears and then shoot them.

“You keep your stuff locked up or inside,” neighbor Jack Bestall said.

Neighbors said they realize the responsibility of living with wildlife -- and hope these tragic deaths and the impact on the cubs’ mother -- push people to do the right thing.

“You’ve got to really manage your situation because the animals are not going to manage themselves,” Bestall said.

Williams also became emotional talking about the impact the shootings have had on his kids — and his tree cutting business.

Churchill believes the mother bear will return to the area in search of her cubs.