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Black bear tours Black Forest

July started with a bang for the Beard family when a black bear rambled through their yard on Pine Cone Road in Black Forest.Kathy Beard said she’d been watching for a bear ever since seeing a picture of a bear in the “Black Forest News” that had been sighted earlier this summer.She kept the bear’s picture, which showed a young and blondish colored bear, taped to her refrigerator door.Beard had the misfortune (depending on how one looks at it) of being away from the home running errands when the bear dropped by.”When we got home, my son, Steven, was looking kind of sheepish. Then, he blurted out that he had seen the bear,” she said.Steven Beard, who is home from college after getting a master’s degree in international affairs, said he glanced out the kitchen window and there it was. He snapped a couple of photos on the digital camera he’d purchased the day before.”The bear just kind of wandered in, hung around for about 15 minutes and wandered off,” he said.Kathy Beard said she’s lived in Black Forest for 32 years and has never heard of a bear sighting so far east of the mountains.Working at a school in Rockrimmon has given her bear awareness.”Every once in a while, bears come down from the mountains, and we have to keep the kids in,” she said.After comparing the photos her son took with the photo in “The Black Forest News,” Kathy Beard concluded the bear that visited her house is not the same as the bear sighted earlier.”This bear is definitely an adult, and its fur is very black,” she said.Michael Seraphin, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Wildlife in Colorado Springs, said his office often gets calls about bear sightings in Black Forest.”Bears may wander over from along the top of the Palmer Divide, from Palmer Lake or the Tri-Lakes area. Occasionally, some get all the way out toward Peyton Pines,” Seraphin said.Although some bears may den in Black Forest from time to time, the area doesn’t have many bears because the natural habit doesn’t support a large population, he said.Instead, bears survive in Black Forest thanks to an abundance of human-provided food, such as bird seed, compost piles, dog food and anything they can find in trash containers.”Bears are omnivores, so they’ll eat just about anything,” Seraphin said.As for whether bears can contract rabies, “it’s biologically possible, but not probable.”We don’t know why, but rabies in bears is not prevalent. Just to be safe, any time we euthanize a bear anywhere in the state, it’s tested for a number of diseases,” he said. “In North America, there’s been just one confirmed case of a black bear that has had rabies.”All bears in Colorado are black bears, regardless of their color.”When early settlers arrived on the East Coast, where 100 percent of the black bears are jet black, they named them the “North American black bear,” Seraphin said.”It wasn’t until settlers came out to the mountain states that they saw color variations. In Colorado, we have black bears ranging everywhere from jet black to kind of a blondish color.”Black bears are one of the world’s more timid bear species. They’re generally just as afraid of people as people are of them, but they are wild animals. They’re unpredictable, so caution is always important, he said.When encountering a bear, Seraphin suggested making loud noises to scare them away.”Generally, the flight response takes over, and they’re easy to scare away,” he said. “But you don’t want to be so aggressive that you encourage the bear to fight back, in which case, we’re not as strong or powerful as they are.”

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