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Wildlife officials remove 400-pound black bear napping under a deck in Durango

Incident coincides with Alaskan national park’s ‘Fat Bear Week’
Colorado Parks and Wildlife captured and relocated a 400-pound black bear that was napping under a deck Wednesday at a house on Hermosa Avenue in Durango. A CPW spokesman said the bear’s size is “pretty unique” for one found inside Durango city limits. (Courtesy of John Livingston/Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

A 400-pound black bear that stopped for a nap under a resident’s deck Wednesday in west Durango was tranquilized and relocated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The unwelcome guest was reported by a resident who lives on Hermosa Avenue near Needham Elementary School. The sighting of the king-size bruin happened to coincide with Fat Bear Week, an online photo contest in which voters pick their favorite fat bear from a dozen competitors in Katmai National Park & Preserve in Alaska. This year’s champion was bear 747.

CPW District Wildlife Officer Luke Clancy responded to the call to find the black bear still under the deck. Clancy called for backup and he and another CPW wildlife manager tranquilized the bear using a dart gun. But they quickly realized they would need more help to move the beast.

With the help of three more CPW officials, officers were able to pull the sedated bear out from under the deck and carry it to a waiting trailer. CPW spokesman John Livingston said the consensus was that the adult male bear weighed about 400 pounds and was about 10 years old.

Before reversing the effects of the sedative, CPW officials performed a health evaluation of the bear, inserted a microchip (similar to the one pet owners put in their pets) and attached ear tags. The tags and chip contain the date the bear received a dose of tranquilizer as well as the date that it would be safe to consume the meat if the animal were to be hunted or otherwise killed.

“The bear was obviously in pretty good health condition and was obviously in good body condition going into winter denning,” Livingston said.

As soon as the tagging and health evaluation were completed, CPW officers administered a drug to reverse the sedative, which quickly woke the animal back up. CPW drove the bear more than 60 miles from the location of capture to release it.

“The best thing is when we have a rehabbed bear or a bear that we relocate, you’re just hopeful that they don’t get themselves in trouble in a residential area again or that we can do a good job of keeping them away from the dangers that human’s present – highways and stuff of that nature,” Livingston said.

Black bears bulk up on food as the hibernation season approaches, and while this animal was no record-breaker (black bears can grow up to 600 pounds), it was among the largest seen within city limits.

Livingston said residents should continue to take the standard precautions by ensuring they pick up fallen fruit, remove bird feeders, secure trash bins and clean barbecue grills. He also noted that pet owners who have dog food delivered to their doorstep should make sure it does not sit outside for long, as bears will smell it through the packaging.

“Bears are going to start looking for a good place to den during the winter,” he said. “That was a spot that was a nice cool location out of the sun during the heat of the day, there were apple trees nearby and that bear might’ve been thinking, ‘Hey, this might be a great spot for me to hang out all winter.’ Obliviously we can’t have a bear in town, in someone’s backyard, denning for winter, and that’s why it was so important to relocate this bear.”

rschafir@durangoherald.com

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