Sep 8, 2012 12:59 AM by Jacqui Heinrich

71-year-old Cascade man chases off hungry bear

A 71-year-old Cascade man got a rude awakening Thursday night. John Fisher was startled awake by a crash in the night; when he went to investigate, he found himself nose-to-nose with a huge black bear.

"It walked up these stairs and I met him at the corner right there. It scared us both pretty badly," Fisher told News 5. He says it was about 300 lbs, 3 feet high when standing on all fours, and strong enough to rip off a 40 lb door.

"I hollered at him 'Hey, get outta here! Get outta here!' and he turned and that's when I saw he had a sack of birdseed in his mouth."

It's the third time this week Fisher's had uninvited company. Two days ago the bear destroyed a bird feeder and a cooler holding birdseed. "He just tore it to smithereens," Fisher says.

Experts aren't surprised; the Waldo Canyon fire shifted more bears into the Ute Pass area. Right now bears are in hyperphagia. "It's a scientific term that means they're increasing their food consumption. They'll be feeding for up to 20 hours a day, trying to gain as much weight as possible," Michael Seraphin of Colorado Parks & Wildlife says.

Seraphin says Fisher did exactly the right thing by yelling at the bear to scare it off; his only mistake was providing a meal. "Birdseed is a very attractive food for bears because it's quite high in calories. Once they learn that behavior and they get a food reward they'll repeat that behavior time and time again."

Wildlife workers set a trap at Fisher's residence. Once a bear gets aggressive enough to break in, they say it's time to relocate it.

Although Fisher won't have a furry neighbor anymore, he's not complaining. "I stayed up the rest of the night with a shotgun on my knees in a rocking chair waiting to see if it would come back. It might've been hand-to-hand combat and I'm too old to be wrestling bears."

Officials from Colorado Parks & Wildlife say if you do encounter a bear, there are only some circumstances when it's legal to shoot it: if a bear is harming you, your family, or your livestock. Otherwise, it's a ticketable offense.

Bears get two strikes when they're removed from an area; if wildlife workers are called to trap a bear for aggressive behavior and they find it with an existing ear tag, it will be euthanized.

To protect yourself from bears, experts say lock up your house and garage since bears usually enter through unlocked windows and doors. Also secure trash in bear-proof containers since bears can smell food from up to 5 miles away. If you do encounter a bear, make noise by shouting or using pots and pans to scare it off. Never approach a bear or block it's exit if it has entered your home.



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