DOW investigates report of grizzly

Janet Urquhart
This grizzly bear wasn't photographed in Colorado, but wildlife officials are investigating a possible sighting of one on the far side of Independence Pass. (Courtesy DOW)

State wildlife officials are investigating a report of a grizzly bear sighting in the San Isabel National Forest near Independence Pass, east of Aspen.Two hunters who have past experience with both black bears and grizzlies reported the Sept. 20 sighting, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife. They reported watching a female grizzly bear and two cubs in a clearing, from a distance of about 80 yards. They observed the animals for about a minute through binoculars and a spotting scope, the DOW said. The hunters were unable to find tracks or scat after the bears moved on.

The hunters are considered credible witnesses, according to Tyler Baskfield, DOW spokesman in Denver. DOW personnel have searched the area on foot and by helicopter, though Baskfield declined to pinpoint the locale of the sighting. No evidence to confirm the presence of grizzlies has been recovered, he said.The San Isabel National Forest borders the White River National Forest to the east; the boundary between the two forests roughly follows the Continental Divide and meets at the top of Independence Pass. The White River National Forest surrounds Aspen.Grizzlies were commonly thought to be extirpated from Colorado until 1979, when a female grizzly bear attacked an outfitter on an archery elk hunt in the San Juan National Forest in southern Colorado, according to the DOW. He survived the attack; the grizzly was killed.

“Since that 1979 incident, the DOW hasn’t ruled out the possibility of grizzly bears in Colorado,” Baskfield said. “I think it’s unlikely, but we haven’t ruled it out.”Baskfield declined to speculate on what the agency would do if it finds a grizzly sow and her cubs, which will presumably begin hibernating for the winter soon.

It is currently hunting season in Colorado for sheep and black bears. Bear hunters need to recognize their targets, Baskfield stressed.”Hunters have to be aware of what their target is,” he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is