Columns » Ranger Rich

How to train your bear

Ranger Rich

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He's big and he walks funny and grunts and we've long wondered if he "goes to the bathroom in the woods." He makes us feel uneasy, and experts say if we see him we should stand our ground, yell and make ourselves look bigger.

We remind ourselves "he was here first" and we try to co-exist with him. But now maybe he's sick or getting old or has a thorn in his foot. Perhaps he's just frustrated by not being able to find a mate.

And today we'd like the Division of Wildlife to shoot him in the ass with a tranquilizer dart and drop him off deep in the forest hundreds of miles away so he won't bother us ever again.

But enough about Doug Bruce.

No, today we're going to talk about the bears that are out of hibernation and wandering around our village like homeless people — some of whom, according to our highly esteemed mayor, "like the homeless lifestyle, they really do."

Anyway, it's spring and they're back, the American black bears, hulking creatures that roam our streets and backyards and look as out of place, to use the old expression, "as Mayor Lionel Rivera in a room full of smart people."

Speaking of that, here's what the Colorado Division of Wildlife says smart people should do to keep bears out: change the doorknobs. From a DOW press release issued last week: "Replace exterior lever-style door handles with good quality round door knobs that bears can't pull or push open."

Let me tell you a funny story. A bear visited our yard and ate my kids' pet duck. That's not the funny part. Especially if you were the duck. The funny part came when I picked up a floor mop leaning against the house and threw it at the bear, javelin-style, hoping to scare the beast away and maybe salvage a wing or a leg for myself.

But the mop hit the bear on the head. He whirled around. There was foam coming from his mouth and he had a chunk of duck hanging from his angry lips and I remember thinking, "Good Lord, that looks like City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft just before she stormed out of her final City Council meeting."

(That was just a joke. Culbreth-Graft would have hired a lawyer to kill the duck.)

No, seriously, the bear charged. I ran back up the driveway, using a frightened and erratic hopping motion, just as experts tell us to do. I made it to the door 20 feet ahead of the bear. I lurched in, slammed it shut and pushed the button on the knob to lock the door, hoping, I guess, that the bear did not have a key.

The point, and there was none, is this: DOW says we need round doorknobs because bears do not have, in technical terms, hands, and therefore cannot turn a round doorknob. The fact that a bear can weigh 3,000 pounds, has the strength of 20,000 men and can knock the front door off its hinges and through the back wall of your house with a flick of a paw will be addressed later by DOW.

Here are two other actual bear safety tips from the release:

• "If you must leave downstairs windows open, install sturdy grates or bars. Screens don't keep out bears." (That, experts say, is the main difference between a bear and a mosquito. That and you have to slap a little harder to get the bear off your neck.)

But here's my favorite, and I'm not kidding:

• "Put on talk radio (not music) when you leave home; the human voice startles most bears." If you have to leave music playing, experts say go with country music. It doesn't startle the bear, but by the third song he will be sad and depressed. (Always store whiskey in a bear-proof container.)

As for talk radio, studies show Republican radio host Rush Limbaugh will make an average bear leave in disgust — especially if Rush plays the song "Barack the Magic Negro," as he did on his March 19, 2007 show.

But the experts say if you have a particularly dangerous bear, tune to FOX News Radio. The sound of Sarah Palin's voice will make the bear kill himself.

rangerrich@csindy.com

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