Douglas County trail closed after bear sighting

Black bear treed itself near Highline Canal trail south of Chatfield

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Douglas County officials closed a popular hiking trail after a bear treed itself near a neighborhood south of Chatfield Reservoir.

Among the phone calls that came into the Douglas County dispatch center about an adult black bear was one from a woman threatening to “shoot” the animal she said was killing her livestock, said Cocha Heyden, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

Officials received the first phone call about the bear at 5:40 a.m. July 21 when the animal, described as a large adult black bear, was spotted in a tree along the Highline Canal Trail near a home at 9630 Polo Club Court. The home is in a neighborhood that abuts the trail south of Chatfield State Park, Heyden said.

Within two hours a second call came in to dispatch from a woman who said a bear was in a tree behind her house about a mile from the location of the first sighting. The woman told officials she’s been losing poultry livestock all summer and believes a bear is responsible.

The woman did not report any claims of injuries to her animals that day but said that if no one did anything about the animal she would shoot the bear, Heyden said.

“There is no way to tell if a bear has anything to do with her livestock,” Heyden said.

At about 8:30 a.m. the Douglas County Parks and Open Space department closed the Highline Canal Trail after the bear was again spotted in a cottonwood tree behind Polo Club Court. Park officials manned the trail while signs were erected to warn visitors, and residents were urged to keep pets and people away from the area, said Tom Welle, Douglas County Parks and Open Space senior park ranger.

“Everyone wants to see the bear, they want to take pictures, they want to bring the kids down and that’s all really negative … for that bear,” Welle said. “When a bear is out in the open like that everyone needs to stay away from it. Not just for their safety but the safety of the bear. If people won’t leave it alone, that’s when bad things can happen and it can eventually cost the bear its life. That’s what we want to avoid.”

The trail remained closed throughout the day while park and wildlife officials waited for the animal to walk away on its own. With the exception of hissing at people who ventured too close, the bear did not display any threatening behavior toward people in the area, Welle said.

Welle does not know if anyone was able to get pictures of the bear because the animal was too deeply entwined within the heavy foliage of the tree, he said.

“If you didn’t know what it was or that there was a bear in the tree, you wouldn’t know it was there,” Welle said.

The bear was still in the tree around 5 p.m. July 21, but by 10 p.m. officials believed the animal had moved on. By the morning of July 22, the bear was no longer in the tree and the trail was re-opened, Welle said.

“The goal was to get all humans away from it so it would settle down and get more comfortable and come down off that tree,” Welle said. “By the time the heat subsided and it had some time on its own, that’s exactly what happened.”

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