I think I may be the last person in the western U.S. who has never really seen a bear in the wild. It’s not for lack of trying or even putting …
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I think I may be the last person in the western U.S. who has
never really seen a bear in the wild.
It’s not for lack of trying or even putting myself in situations
where I’m likely to see one.
Early in my career, I worked in Palmer Lake, where covering bear
encounters was part of the job. I remember talking to one guy who
woke up in the middle of the night thirsty for a glass of water and
when he flipped the light switch in the kitchen, saw a bear cub
making an entrance through the window over his sink. As I talked to
the guy and his wife the next day, he was excited, I was jealous
and his wife thought we were both nuts.
Stories like this were not uncommon there. At town hall you
could buy a T-shirt from the town clerk that read, “I saw a bear in
Palmer Lake.” I was never rightfully able to buy one.
To make matters more frustrating, I lived in a part of Palmer
Lake that was extremely bear-adjacent. I put my trash in cans
surrounded by a cage mangled by bears trying to get at my
leftovers. Still, nothing.
When I moved away from there to south metro Denver, I figured my
chances of seeing a bear would diminish quite a bit.
But every so often, a story about a bear in the middle of
suburbia would cross my desk and attached to it would be a photo of
a treed bear or one that had recently been de-treed by the Division
of Wildlife personnel.
I always ran these stories with a certain hard-luck attitude
about missing the excitement of seeing the whole ordeal unfold for
I’ve been to Yellowstone a few times. I hiked with bear bells
(the hiker’s calling card in bear territory since bears don’t like
surprises much) tucked silently and stupidly away in my pack for
fear they’d rob me of seeing what brought me to the park in the
first place. No dice. Nowadays, you’re hard-pressed to get out of
the park without having a bear snuggle up next to you in your
I spent some time in Roxborough State Park during drought years
when bear sights were high. The rangers were meeting me at my car
door warning me of bears in the park. One of these conversations
lead to what might technically qualify by standards other than my
own as a bear sighting. A ranger pointed out a rock in the distance
that, even through binoculars, had a gnat-sized spec on it that he
swore was a bear. It could have been lint on my binoculars for all
And yet I return to suburban living and the steady news of bear
sightings without one of my own to share.
This particular scab of mine was picked again this week when we
not only got a story, but visual evidence of the kinds of
encounters I pine for. In this case, a black bear took a leisurely
soak in Aud Schaap’s backyard pond in Castle Rock — a little
further west on the road I drive to the office everyday. We’re
running it this week in some of our papers, and it will be online
More importantly, it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. By
the end of the year, I’m going to find a bear to set my own eyes
In the meantime, send me cool photos you happen to come across
and I’ll considering running them, no matter how jealous I get.
Jeremy Bangs is the managing editor of Colorado Community
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