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Watch out for the bear invasion

Ranger Rich


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They are a bit odd-looking, and even though we know it's wrong, we point at them and we laugh. We see them occasionally at midday but they prefer to be secretive, slinking around in the dim light of dawn and the shadows of twilight when their activities can be hidden. They are said to poop in the woods.

But enough about Mayor Steve Bach and the guys he appointed to the Memorial Hospital task force. (They're now officially called "collaborators," which sounds better than "get-away drivers.")

Instead, today we'll discuss one of our village's annual rites of a fading summer, when the cooler days and brisk nights trigger Colorado's great bears into a feeding frenzy.

Giving in to a powerful and primal urge, they forage madly for acorns, berries, soft-serve ice cream, strange burned meat on a stick, and cotton candy — some of the food plucked from garbage cans when they think no one is watching — and then they go home, sick and broke.

Although it's possible I've confused bears with people at the Colorado State Fair.

The point is, Colorado's estimated 8,000 to 12,000 black bears are packing on weight for the winter, knowing that only by relentless gorging can they add the additional 75 to 100 pounds of fat needed to survive the winter. The same sort of thing can be seen in humans as they stampede toward the door of an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant.

(The guy sitting next to me at Golden Corral last night ate nonstop for exactly two hours and 44 minutes. Then he stood on his hind legs, sniffed the air for trouble and scratched his back against the fountain-drink machine.)

My own giddiness over the bears runs high at this time each year, too, because I get a front-row seat for the feeding orgy. The bears emerge from the woodlands around our home, munching on acorns from our scrub-oak bushes. (With the recent rains, our scrub oaks have really thrived, and have more nuts than a Michele Bachmann rally.)

Anyway, over the Labor Day weekend, on three successive evenings, a mother bear and a cub came to eat the acorns, breaking a few branches in the process, and then lounged playfully within 10 feet of the window to my home office where I right ... wrieighht ... wriette ... where I make these columns, sometimes peering in at me as if they were trying to read these masterpieces.

(Footnote: On Friday night it appeared the mama bear actually found something hilarious in one of my columns, as she curled her upper lip in a sort of grin and shook her head from side to side in an apparent laughing fit. Turns out an ant had crawled into her nose.)

Speaking of playful bears, Janice Kennedy and husband Jack have had a four-bear circus in their backyard about once a week or so near Cheyenne Cañon.

One of the bears might have thumbs.

"A few weeks ago Jack heard water running outside and went out to check," Janice says. "A bear had turned on the spigot, and the mama bear and three cubs were all drinking from it. Water was everywhere."

That story had a happy ending. All four bears were hired by the nearby Broadmoor and are now in charge of watering the golf courses. (They pay particular attention to the 17th hole on the East course, which is a 611-yard, par-5 and is a real bear. Sorry.)

"A while back we heard noises on our roof," says Janice, "and we went outside, carefully, and found one of the cubs up there. Then another went onto the roof. They climbed onto the scrub oaks and got onto the roof. They were playing."

The same thing happened at our house last fall. Fearing for our safety, I responded by firing several blasts of bear pepper spray onto the roof. Then I watched with some concern as the Dish TV repairman screamed and toppled into the front bushes, rubbing his eyes.

Anyway, that's the story of our village's bears. I hope you found this column funny. As I often do, I let my wife read it before I handed it over to my boss and, frankly, I'd never seen Susie laugh so loudly and vigorously.

Then she blew the ant out of her nose.


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