As my friend Susan and I headed up Skunk Canyon trail on Wednesday evening, thick shrubbery crowded the base of the ravine to our left.
“Do you think a bear would live in there?” Susan asked.
I doubted it. Considering the trail’s name, I assumed that we would be more likely to see a smaller, more odorous critter on the path–one that comes in black and white. We both laughed and continued westward on Skunk Canyon trail.
But as we rounded a bend near the next intersection, my smart aleck hypothesis was proven wrong.
“Susan, there’s a bear! Just ahead!”
The black bear ambled through the grass toward us, maybe 75 feet away. Susan wracked her brain to remember which reaction was associated with black as opposed to grizzly bears. I remember well the days of black bears in my wooded Wisconsin neighborhood growing up, and the amount of racket my sisters and I were able to produce to keep them at bay.
So Susan and I chatted loudly as the bear huffed at us and made its way onto and then along the trail.
The bear sighting was a wonderful surprise, but also a sad reminder of the bear that wandered onto the CU Boulder campus last month. For the safety of the students, and the bear, officials darted and relocated the bear.
The bear’s tranquilizer-induced descent from the tree it inhabited will be forever remembered thanks to the photographic trigger finger of CU student Andy Duann.
My parents called the next day to tell me the picture had already made its way into the St. Paul Pioneer Press, halfway across the country.
There is now a Facebook page that proclaims Falling Bear a public figure and a Twitter hashtag (#falling bear) for all related tweets.
But a week after the bear made its now-famous fall, it traveled 50 miles back from its wilderness relocation to be struck and killed by two cars on U.S. 36. Wildlife, as its name suggests, is still inherently wild.
As Susan and I hiked back down to the trailhead we hoped that the bear we sighted would not share the same fate as the falling bear.
While you may not live in a place where black bears wander into your backyard, you can see them up close in the wild on our coastal Alaska trip!