Most of the people I know all have a favorite wild animal. For some it is a dolphin, others an elephant, or a tiger. My mom, she loves moose, and my dad is an elk kinda guy and me, my thing is the black bear. I eat, sleep, breath, and eat (literally) bears. I believe my obsession started at a young age. As you can see in the picture below my first bear hunt was at age 3. I start tracking bears on trail /game cameras the end of April and usually take the cameras down mid-November. I also look for them in the mornings and evenings out on the prairies from sitting on top of a ridge. When they are out on the prairies they are scavenging for dead carcasses, ant larva, and anything else they can find that is bear-edible. Over the years I have had the pleasure of viewing many, many bears.
Custer County boasts an amazing assortment of black bears. Although most are not black but range in color from white, blonde, cinnamon, brown, grey and any combination of those colors. In fact the black bear has more color ranges than any other mammal in North America. In a recent Bear Hunting Magazine article, it states that 80% of Colorado Black Bears are not black but rather color phase. It is unknown why bears color phase. It could be due to the melanin in the hair shaft, which is the reason why a human has a certain hair, eye, skin color. I have seen every color except white. Judging the actual size of a bear can be difficult. A small 100 lb bear can look like he is 300+ lbs depending on the length of his hair and how close you are to him. The trick is to look at their head and proportion of ears. A small bear looks like they have big ears and a large bear has small ears. See the skull pictures below, the first bear I harvested was much smaller than the second one. The two bears that I have harvested has given my family healthy, organic, free range, antibiotic and hormone free meat. Some people do not like the taste of bear because they say it is “greasy.” I like it and my daughter likes it. If you ever get the chance, please try it!
A male bear is referred to as a boar and a female is a sow and the babies are called cubs. Sows have cubs every 2 years. A boar will eat cubs if he is given the opportunity. This is why it is imperative that boars be hunted as there are no natural predators. In 1992 Colorado voters took wildlife management into their own hands and abolished the spring bear hunt and hunting with the use of bait and hounds. This has caused a massive overpopulation of bears that has led to starvation in their dens, a huge increase in bear-human conflicts, as well as the lowest harvest success rate of all Colorado Big Game animals at 9%. Wildlife experts are currently gathering data on bear populations to recommend a plan to get the state back to a healthy number of black bears. I have heard many people say there is not an overpopulation problem because they have never even seen a bear in Colorado. Well, bears are pretty elusive creatures and have erratic patterns. They want nothing to do with humans. They have an incredible sense of smell and most wild bears will avoid contact any way that they can. They are mostly nocturnal in order to avoid humans, meaning they scavenge for food at night, but they can roam around in the trees during the day.
So you came to Custer County to visit and you want to see a bear? Unfortunately, I have no bear tour guide service, but that would be my dream job!! I would suggest you go look out on the plains before sunrise and from about 6pm until dark. Look for darker colored spots cruising around out on the plains. Always stay at a safe distance and carry bear spray as it is very effective. I have had some close encounters when the wind was blowing towards me and the bear could not smell what I was. Usually by talking to them you can deter them from a confrontation.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has many links to living or vacationing in bear country. Here is one link http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlifeCampingBearCountry.aspx but I suggest you browse through them all.
I sure hope you get to see a black bear in the wild! If you do please post pics to my Colorado Huntress or Mountain Shot Photography page on Facebook. I would LOVE to see them!
Happy Hunting! ~Brianna