EVERGREEN, Colo. -- An Evergreen man accused of killing two bear cubs outside his home early Tuesday morning is facing eight charges, including two felony counts.
The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office charged Dan Williams, 50, with illegal discharge of a weapon and aggravated cruelty to an animal, both felonies, as wells as six misdemeanors, including three counts of black bear hunting out of season, two counts of illegal possession of wildlife and shooting from or across a public roadway.
If convicted of the felony counts, Williams could face up to 4 1/2 years in prison. Each misdemeanor count carries potential jail time and significant fines. His first court appearance has not been determined.
Williams shot two rubber bullets at the cubs as they and the mother bear were going through his trash early Tuesday morning. When his dog got out, Williams fired a live round that struck both cubs and pierced the window of a neighbor's house.
One of the cubs died instantly and the second cub had to be euthanized by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials. The mother bear scrambled into a nearby tree across the street and stayed there for 15 hours after the incident.
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 Williams 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 said 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," Williams said. "I’ve done it before. And my neighbors lauded me for scaring them away. I was doing it for the bears’ best interest.”
He acknowledged putting up a Facebook post four years ago in which he wrote, with some typos, “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.!”
Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, acknowledged her office did provide Williams with buckshot.
“Rubber buckshot was issued to this man last year by one of my officers," Churchill said. "Anytime you are issued this, it’s kind of a last resort."
Churchill 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.
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 keep your stuff locked up or inside,” neighbor Jack Bestall said. “You’ve got to really manage your situation because the animals are not going to manage themselves."
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.