Bear on CU campus could mean big problems for wildlife

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BOULDER, Colo. -- An exciting and fun day on the CU campus Thursday means a serious problem for the area’s wildlife.

Colorado parks and wildlife workers tranquilized a black bear that had roamed onto campus near the Williams Village housing complex just before 8 a.m.

Wildlife experts remind us we play a big part in why bears get so close to us--and it could cost them their lives.

“It did look like a big dog from a block away,” says CU employee Lonnie Gutherie, about a big, black bear he saw running on campus.

Another CU worker had an encounter with the animal.

“I was plugging my money into the parking meter, when I felt something run into the back of my legs and backside, I thought it was a large Saint Bernard at the time,” laughs Rhonda Chesnutt.

It wasn’t.

“When it got six-feet in front of me, it turned and looked over its shoulder at me. That was the first time I realized it was not a dog it was a bear,” she says.

The 200-lb male black bear then climbed a tree and sat there for two hours--setting off a commotion as students shot pictures, and wildlife experts shot a tranquilizer gun.

“15 minutes after that, at 10:28 a.m., the bear fell,” says CU Police spokesman Ryan Huff.

The bears legs are the first to go--he hangs on a limb--but the drug is too powerful to fight.

“CU’s Rec Center brought in a mat to cushion the fall. It really was a perfect landing, he fell on his back and stayed there 20 minutes or so,” says Huff.

Wildlife experts suspect he may have been as hungry as a bear--a scintillating smorgasbord of smells luring him here.

“The bear was walking across apparently from the trash cans. It smelled the food,” says Gutherie.

Wildlife experts say people must bear the brunt of the problem.

“When they start to get in trouble in town, when they get attracted to people-provided food, that’s when we start tagging and moving them and have to euthanize bears,” says Colorado Parks & Wildlife spokesperson Jennifer Churchill.

An education campaign on black bears this Saturday will remind neighbors to put birdfeeders away at night, to keep pet food inside, barbeque grills clean, and most importantly, keep garbage inside until the morning of pick-up.

“A lot of people have their garbage out in anticipation of tomorrow’s collection,” says Boulder resident Terry Struthers.

But he and his wife keep their trash in the garage.

They don’t want to be a reason a bear is put down.

“I hope for the bear’s sake we figure it out,” says Struthers.

“We feel it’s critical people take responsibility for our bears. These are all our bears. And our wildlife needs to stay wild,” says Churchill.

State law requires trash be secured from bears. And in Boulder, an ordinance says residents cannot put their trash out until after 5 a.m. the morning of pick-up.

Wildlife experts relocated the bear to the mountains west of Boulder.

IF he’s caught in town again, he’ll be euthanized.

The state operates on a two strikes you’re out rule.

And Churchill says we may experience another drought season, which could do a lot of damage to the bears’ natural food. She says that could mean more bears will look harder and further for food.

More information from the Colorado Division of Wildlife: Living with bears in Colorado

Related: Sleeping bear tranquilized; falls from tree near CU housing