As locals and golfers at Breckenridge Golf Club sought temporary shelter from the bombardment of rain drops on Monday, so too did a black bear.
The bear, which was estimated to be a 250-pound 4-year-old, sought refuge in a tree on the fifth hole of Breckenridge’s Bear Nine layout in the Tiger Run neighborhood.
The bear was first discovered by a neighbor of Meigan Canfield’s.
“Our neighbors texted us and said there was a bear in their tree,” Canfield said. “Our neighbor was walking their dog when the bear just moseyed out in front of them. I think it may have gotten startled a little because it jumped up into the tree and was 60 feet in the air in no time.”
Word about the wildlife-viewing opportunity spread quickly and before long a small group of residents and visitors had congregated near the fifth hole to snap photos. Canfield, who has resided in Breckenridge for 13 years with her family, was among the photographers, but she opted to shoot her pictures from the safety of her neighbor’s house.
“I’ve only seen a bear one other time and it wasn’t from this close,” Canfield said. “It was about 20 feet away.”
Luckily, the close encounter wasn’t enough to startle the bear.
“It wasn’t really freaked out at all,” Canfield said. “It just sort of looked at me while I was taking pictures of it, then it took a nap for a while.”
On Wednesday Mike Porras, public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said it was fortunate there weren’t any incidents Monday in Breckenridge. Although Parks and Wildlife officials encourage people to take advantage of wildlife opportunities, Porras said those should be conducted from a safe distance, and no one should approach any wildlife, especially bears.
The problem is the human tendency to want to feed wildlife — but becoming accustomed to human-provided food is essentially a death sentence for bears, Porras said.
Providing bears easy access to trash, tossing food to bears or even hanging a bird feeder outside a home become hazards not necessarily because of the content, but because bears are opportunistic feeders with great memories.
“Bears do not hunt people; they’re natural instinct is to avoid us, but if they become comfortable it can be a danger to humans,” Porras said.
Bears may not actively hunt people, but because they are wild animals they can act unpredictably, Porras said, especially when cornered, startled or feeling threatened. A bear that becomes reliant on human-provided food is more likely to be involved in an incident with people, and it is Parks and Wildlife policy to put down a bear after only one incident of aggression against humans.
“We encourage people to discourage bears to become comfortable around them, but it is a wonderful wildlife viewing experience,” Porras said. It basically comes down to three simple rules, “don’t feed, don’t approach and don’t harass bears.”
And those rules go for all wildlife species, Porras said.
The public is encouraged to report bear sightings to a local Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer. Acts of aggression should be reported immediately.