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Sheriff confronts bear near Dolores High School

Nowlin fires twice with rubber bullets, runs bear up hillside
A black bear climbs rocks above the Dolores River in January.

Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin, who has been conducting a Tuesday night bear patrol in Dolores, reported that he had a close encounter with a bear on Aug. 1 after spotting it on the sidewalk at Dolores High School.

Several people were walking in the same area, he reported.


According to Nowlin’s report, he chased the adult black bear with his patrol vehicle from the school, at 1301 Central Ave., toward the northern town limits at 11th Street. The bear then turned and fled behind a house in the Hillside area. The bear reappeared near 300 N. 10th St., and attempted to open a trash container.

“I walked up to the bear within 10 yards and fired one less-lethal 12-gauge rubber slug, striking the bear in the left rear,” Nowlin reported.

He then followed the bear as it ran just outside the northern town limits onto the hillside, and fired a second rubber slug into the bear’s left flank, which sent it running up the hill and out of sight.

He added that no trash containers were found to have been disturbed the following morning.

Sheriff’s deputies have been on the alert for bears in Dolores after two sightings in middle and late July. Both were spotted at night, before the trash pickup on Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday, July 19, Dolores residents reported that a bear was rummaging through trash bins on Central Avenue before the morning trash pickup. The bear left a mess in its wake, knocking over about 20 trash bins and spilling trash into the road.On Tuesday, July 25, Nowlin drove off a bear in the same area by shooting it with rubber bullets. He said the idea is to make it “as uncomfortable as possible” for the animals to seek out food within town limits.Nowlin said he has started patrolling the town himself on Tuesday nights when there isn’t a deputy on duty in Dolores to “haze” any bear he sees, whether its with rubber bullets or his vehicle. The idea, he said, is to make bears “as uncomfortable as possible” within town limits.

Several conflicts between bears and humans have been reported across Colorado this summer, including some in the Durango area, where four bears were either shot by homeowners or euthanized by Wildlife Services in July. Nowlin said he wants to avoid incidents like that in Montezuma County.

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