Maybe it was the country-western music or maybe it was just too loud to sleep. Either way, Colorado Division of Wildlife officials succeeded over the weekend in shooing away a hibernating bear after it was found holed up under a residence on Boulder Community Hospital property.
A plumber for the hospital found the bear around 1 p.m. Friday in a crawl space beneath one of two cottages that the hospital reserves near its Mapleton Center, 311 Mapleton Ave., for new out-of-state employees looking for permanent housing, said hospital spokesman Rich Sheehan. The worker was crawling under the porch to fix frozen pipes when he heard growling, Sheehan said.
"He moved his flashlight around and saw the bear and made a hasty retreat," Sheehan said.
The worker called city wildlife officials, who called the Colorado Division of Wildlife. State wildlife officials discussed several options and decided to scare the bear away by tucking a loud radio in the hole with the bear, Sheehan said. They played country western music, he said.
"They wanted to try to make it really noisy so that the bear would leave," Sheehan said.
It worked, and Sheehan said the hospital has taken steps to make sure the unwanted tenant doesn't return. Hospital officials believe the bear got into its burrow because a cover over the crawl space didn't fit quite right.
"We have replaced that with one that is a nice tight fit," Sheehan said.
Jennifer Churchill, spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said officers feel confident that the bear -- which was awake by the time they arrived and seemed to be in good health -- will be able to find another safe place nearby to hibernate for the rest of the winter.
"It would be safe to assume that he wanted to hole up and stay there, but we didn't feel it was a safe situation," Churchill said.
Groggy bears can be grumpy when they wake up, she said.
"It depends on the animal and the temperatures," Churchill said.
The unseasonably warm weather earlier this winter brought some bears out of hibernation early, according to Churchill. Some bears were seen roaming around the county's foothills in December.
"It's been a weird winter," Churchill said. "But it's not unheard of for them to come out and go back into hibernation."
With all the people living in the foothills, Churchill said, she would have expected to hear about bears hibernating near people and homes more often.
"But this is the first time we've dealt with one of these," she said.
David Lontz, a Boulder Community Hospital nurse from Santa Fe, N.M., is living in the cottage above the former bear den and said he remembers hearing noises underneath his kitchen Thursday night.
"But I never suspected it was an animal or anything," he said.
Lontz, 43, said he was snowboarding at Breckenridge on Friday when the plumber found the bear and learned of the situation after the property manager called him on the slopes. They said they were going to attempt to move it using music.
"If that didn't work, they were talking about relocating me rather than the bear," he said. "I was in agreement with that. I don't agree with the bear having to be tranquilized. So I'm glad it worked out the way it did."
Lontz said he does wish he were home at the time of the discovery so he could offer up one of his CDs for the musical hazing.
"I would have requested them to put on this song from a band called Railroad Earth," he said. "The song is called 'Black Bear.'"
Although, he conceded, it might not have worked as a deterrent.
"The song is a nice song to hear, so it might have kept the bear there, rather than drive it off," Lontz said.