June 8, 2010

The forecast called for rain in the early evening, so I left the house around 4 PM and met Rob at Roxborough, once again in search of bears. There wasn’t a whole lot happening at Roxy – no coyotes and no activity at the golden eagle nest, just a handful of distant deer. 5:15 and still no rain, though some dark clouds were beginning to move in from far to the west. We decided to try our luck at Chatfield for a while, then return to Roxy when the rain started. There wasn’t a whole lot happening at Chatty either – no coyotes at the den (there were two baby magpies in the bushes outside the den, still unable to fly – first time I’ve ever seen baby magpies) and no whitetail deer in sight, just a lone killdeer wading in the creek.

Back to Roxborough, and as soon as we drive through the canyon and turn around for a return sweep the rain begins to fall and I finally spot what I’ve been waiting all year to see – BEAR!!! I fumbled around with the 2-way radio for what seemed like forever and finally got a call out, “Rob! Get up here! Bear! Big bear!” The bear was over the hill to the north and out of sight within a minute, no photo opportunities whatsoever, but at least we’d finally seen one. It was headed for the Fountain Valley, so I parked the truck and started up the Fountain Valley trail. I passed a couple of frightened hikers and rounded the trail just in time to see the bear disappearing into the thick oak brush at the top of the hill, heading southwest. I waited out the downpour under a tree in the valley, and when I was sure that the bear wasn’t going to double back my way, I headed back to the truck. Rob hadn’t seen anything come over the hill yet, so we spent the next half hour waiting for the bear to show up – no dice, the bear never made another appearance.

At 8:00 I left the parking lot to check the canyon and east side of the park, Rob waited at the parking lot for the big bear to show up. I drove through the canyon and out the other side, and as I crested the hill on the east side of the park, I heard a group of coyotes loudly snarling, barking and howling, then spotted a black spot out in the flats surrounded by 4 coyotes – ANOTHER BEAR! The smaller bear had wandered into coyote turf and was surrounded by them, standing on hind legs and spinning around in circles trying to avoid a bite on the butt. The bear fought them off for a minute, then made a break for it to the south. The coyotes, surprisingly, did not give chase – probably guarding their den site. I franticly tried to reach Rob over the 2-way, but the canyon was too much for the radio… I tried to call him on the phone, but no answer so I left a panicked message… By now it was getting too dark for decent photos, but I clicked away anyway, excited to see my first Colorado black bears of the year.

I turned around and started driving back to the west side to alert Rob, and his crackled voice finally came over the radio, “Did you say bear? I’m on the way!” We spent the next twenty minutes watching the bear out in the flats. He kept wandering south, then got too close to another group of coyotes and the air was filled with howling and barking again, until he disappeared into the creek bed. We finally left the park around 8:45 – mission accomplished!

Comments and critiques are greatly appreciated, thanks!

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