Back in Pagosa Springs: Bear Sighting

Well, we’re certainly not in China anymore. We’re not even in Tulsa. It’s good to be back in Pagosa Springs, which is our Colorado summer spot for escaping the oppressive Oklahoma heat. However, it’s a little warmer here than usual and guess who is coming down from the mountains.

I have no photo to prove it, but Kyle and I ran into a bear on our morning walk. Even if I had a camera, I’m not foolish enough to think this was a photo opportunity. No way. This one wasn’t a small black bear like we’ve seen on the roadsides in the past. This was a large, brown, male (he’s actually of the black bear variety, not a grizzly, but he was BIG, you see), and he was definitely foraging for food. We were coming down the hill having a wonderful conversation about what I don’t even remember now. Kyle’s words, “Look, a bear!” stopped my thought process and I froze. He was big – which I think I mentioned earlier – and was staring straight at us from the middle of the road. We were probably about 50 yards from him, but more importantly he was about 50 yards from us. “What do we do?” I asked my fearless husband, who replied, “I don’t know.”

The bear was still staring us down, so we began to back up slowly, then turned and walked the other direction. I had in my sights a house where a couple had just driven into their driveway. I was heading for their open front door. I could almost hear the bear’s heavy breathing behind us. Actually, that’s not true. It was Kyle. But before we made it to the house and introduced ourselves to our new friends, my husband, who I now regard as fearless, walked back toward the bear to see if he was gone. You might think this either foolish or brave, but it did save us from having to walk into the front door of the couple’s house and try to convince them we had seen a bear. The brown fella had moved on across the road and toward the golf course. In talking to several “townies,” here is what we have learned about bears in Pagosa Springs:

1)   This is a very bad summer for the big bears (heat drives them down from the mountains), so they’ve come to look for food.

2)   Bears are actually afraid of humans unless they are protecting cubs, so it’s possible he wouldn’t have attacked us.

3)   Bears are also very scent-oriented, so if we smelled anything like food, it’s possible he would have attacked us. This is why I am thankful I skipped the bacon and pancakes this morning and opted for the banana.

4)   Turning tail to run is really not the best idea; standing with your arms up and yelling is more likely to scare the bear away. Side note: I question that one since I think this kind of posturing looks more we’re saying: “bring it on bear, we can take ya.”

5)   Pepper spray works well and should be carried on hikes and walks. Upon reading the back of the spray label, we discovered that it works only within ten feet. I realize that a bear that big could run me down, but anyone who thinks I’m going to let a bear get within ten feet of me is crazy. Which is why I have put Kyle in charge of pepper spray – now that I know for sure he is fearless.

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