A bear visited Niwot last Tuesday, May 14. First reported midday Monday in south Longmont, Colorado Wildlife officers weaved through the area with each report of a sighting, but were unable to locate him.
Another call, at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, placed the migrating bear near Hover Road and Highway 119, but an officer didn’t set eyes on him until he’d spent some quality time hanging out in Niwot’s Overbrook neighborhood and his stopover was publicized on the Nextdoor app in the late afternoon.
The bear’s day consisted of boldly strolling down the Cougar Trail (which spans from Niwot Road just east of Elm Street north to behind Niwot High School) in the morning, doing the cliché bear breaking into a beehive thing, visiting several backyards and napping a few times, and then taking an afternoon sidewalk saunter on several streets. This cinnamon-brown rendition of a black bear was slowly acquainting himself with the area, all the while allowing neighbors to take amazing photos without incident.
The first officer on the scene was Tyler Asnicar, who found a group of about 10 people looking across the irrigation ditch on Cougar Trail around 5 p.m. Seeing how close the spectators were, Asnicar immediately asked them to move a safer distance away.
Two additional officers, Joe Padia and Peter Boyatt, arrived on the scene. Padia fired a dart at the bear’s hind end around 6 p.m., which sent the bear into a short jog along the ditch. Then he nonchalantly shuffled aimlessly along the edge of the ditch. It took about eight long minutes for the fuzzy guy to finally lie down, but a second shot was needed around 6:30 p.m. to help him actually fall into a deep sleep.
Once he was snoring away, officers covered the bear’s eyes with a blindfold and holding his legs, moved him on to a tarp in a neighbor’s backyard. The game wardens let the crowd of about 25 people, including wide-eyed children, observe as they attached green tags to his ears reading 1029 (his new identity) and implanted a microchip just in case the tags fall off.
The bear was placed in a cage trailer attached to a game warden’s truck and given a “wake up” injection so he would be alert enough to leave the cage when they reached his new neighborhood, deep in non-public land in the Arapaho National Forest.
The game wardens determined it was a male black bear, estimated it to be two years old, and weighing 125 pounds. There were some rumors of a cub being with the bear, so knowing it was a male meant that was not likely.
Officers graciously answered everyone’s questions and allowed onlookers to enjoy the excitement of being so close to the beautiful bear.
When he didn’t appear to be rousing quickly enough, an officer was preparing to give a second shot. But, with just a touch of a hand on its back, the bear sprung up and shocked those gathered around. The cage door was shut and he set out on the first and hopefully only drive of his life.
If 1029 had not been relocated, Asnicar said over time he would have become habituated to the area. It’s likely the bear would have had a “spiral downward behavior-wise” with opportunities to get into unsecured trash, outside pet food, and birdfeeders.
Asnicar said that hesitancy to call wildlife officers is often because of an unfounded belief the bear will be killed.
“That’s the last thing we want to do,” He said. “In this situation, we found out about it right away and were able to dart it. We could take him away from the high concentration of houses, get him back up in the mountains and hopefully he has settled down and found naturally occurring food sources for the remainder of his life.”
There’s always a chance, albeit small, that more bears will come to Niwot, especially as young bears wake up from hibernation and are pushed out on their own. Beginning in April and early May, they make their way down waterways like the South St. Vrain and Left Hand Creek just following their noses, which are able to smell food up to five miles away. Asnicar said this year there’s a fair amount of moisture, so their food sources should be in good supply and that may reduce the need to wander.
“What I tell people, even in Boulder where they see more bears is, ‘Don’t be worried, just be aware,” Asnicar said.