Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
I hadn’t seen the beast in time before it sank its fangs into my neck.
Apparently, I had walked too close to the mama bear’s cubs, and she reacted the only way she knew how — attacking.
As we tussled on snowy ground, I reached for my flintlock pistol and fired a round at the bear’s head. She ran off, but I could tell by the warm fluid pouring out of my neck that I was grievously injured and …
Wait a minute. Nevermind, that was “The Revenant.” My first bear story is probably not Oscar bait, but nevertheless bears mentioning.
I’ve lived in Colorado for two years, and until last Thursday, I had never seen a bear. Because of my surname, this has been the source of much joy to my coworkers, mostly on Twitter, the social media website preferred by nine out of 10 smartasses.
So I was on my way to work when a coworker texted to tell me this was my chance: A bear was sighted near the University of Colorado campus. I was stoked. It was broad daylight, and this would likely afford me a better opportunity for bear watching than my usual tack of stumbling around in the dark with a police scanner while crying.
After attempting to track the bear with help from my coworker via text and employing “creative” traffic maneuvering, I parked my truck and set out on foot, south on Broadway. It didn’t take long to see my photographer running the opposite way across the street. After jaywalking in front of a cop (I figured he was busy watching the bear, haha), I caught up with the photographer.
“Where’s the bear?” I asked, my teeth chattering as the adrenaline began to surge.
“It’s coming around the building,” he replied.
We ran northbound, and as I rounded the corner — pay dirt.
It wasn’t exactly what I had expected. The bear was tiny, no larger than the smelly dogs my coworkers bring to the office, hardly a man-eater. It ran into a fenced area and found itself trapped. I attempted an iPhone photo to preserve the moment for posterity, but alas, I was shaking worse than a meth addict on payday. As scared as I was, I couldn’t help but notice that the bear also looked pretty freaked out, like it had just been looking for berries and picnic baskets and hadn’t signed on for this.
“Let’s give him some room to escape,” an animal control officer yelled out.
I moved, and the beast doubled back and ran to the banks of Boulder Creek, hopped in, swam for a beat, then crawled out and made a beeline for the mountains, cops and animal control people in tow.
I spent the next 30 minutes interviewing hippies down at the creek, one of whom wasn’t sure if he had hallucinated the entire incident. Several hours later, it dawned on me that I had seen a baby bear. I hope it made it home to Mom.