Grizzly Bears in Colorado's San Juans

3forks

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I was 8 in 1979 when the last grizzly was killed in Colorado, not too far from Durango, where I grew up.

The story of the bear attack on Ed Wiseman and how he killed the bear by stabbing it with an arrow was a pretty hot topic in town for a while. Lots of us kids had spent quite a bit of time backpacking and hunting with our dads in the San Juans and that grizzly story made us feel like we had escaped death on all of our previous trips into that country.

There's been some confirmed sightings of wolves in Colorado; and I read an article the other day where a Parks and Wildlfe biologist said it's inevitable that they'll reestablish themselves here.

That comment made me think about those reports you hear every so often of Parks and Wildlife investigating a "credible" witness sighting a grizzly. They never can confirm the sightings, but people are quick to bring up that 1979 bear story. For anyone who doesn't know, that bear killed in the San Juans was a sow that experts said had previously nursed cubs.

I personally don't think there are any more grizzly bears in Colorado, but I was also pretty quick to discount reports of people hearing wolves howling in this state - and unless I had seen the pictures of that wolverine that had migrated to Colorado - would have said whoever reported the sighting was mistaken.

Anyway, lots of backpackers and hunters in the San Juan Wilderness but it is a giant expanse... Anyone think grizzlies are still roaming that country?
 

backcountry_hunter

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I doubt it... it would be a stretch, but there is that .00000001% "possibility". If one hasn't been confirmed in nearly 4 decades they're probably gone for the short term. If/when they do come back (almost inevitable unless they're controlled) it'll come from the NW part of the state on down unless deliberate reintroduction took place (which would be a political nightmare I would think).

Our wildlife managers/biologists are always really quick to discount predator gossip like bears, cats and wolves for something else. In this instance though I believe them.
 

justin davis

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I bet there are a few. I've seen legit pics and heard stories of sightings in recent years. Dow always seems to deny it and keep it quiet.

It's the same deal as the wolverine sightings that I heard I used to hear about. Had buddies see wolverines and find tracks and the DOW always denied it just like they do with the grizz. And the a photographer got close up pics of a wolverine in rocky mtn park.
 

Jason Snyder

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A wolverine sighting is markedly different from a grizzly bear. Wolverines can and do some absolutely amazing treks on an absolute whim. Young grizzlies do the same, but not normally on the same scale.
 
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3forks

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A wolverine sighting is markedly different from a grizzly bear. Wolverines can and do some absolutely amazing treks on an absolute whim. Young grizzlies do the same, but not normally on the same scale.
That wolverine that was in Colorado ended up being confirmed as the one that was killed on a ranch in North Dakota.

Unreal... especially since it was originally collared in the Tetons.
 

dotman

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I hunt it and I like to hope there is a small population but doubt it.
 

justin davis

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Yea wolverines can do some major treks. My point was that the DOW used to deny they were here just like they deny grizz.

So if grizz are in Wyoming what prevents a young one from traveling south to Colorado? Very possible for a couple to be in Colorado in my opinion.
Be good if they could eat some hippies! :)
 

Huntindog45

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I grew up in a household where my father was a game warden in California. The wildlife "sightings" that would get called into our house were always damn entertaining. In general, the average person with very little GOOD wildlife ID skills has no idea at all what they are seeing late at night. I have taken calls of people reporting grizzly bears and all sorts of other crazy crap including mt lions that end up being bobcats or dogs, of course the wolf vs coyote sightings have been around forever, . As such I literally believe nothing i hear from non expert accounts regarding bears, lions, sasquatch, and ghosts. Colorado is not that far from Wyoming so it is doable. The problem is that its grizzlies really are not good at hiding, and they leave a lot of tell tell sign. CO DOW would gladly report if they had credible evidence of a grizzly I know many people within colorado DOW that would love to see them, love to confirm it. There is no conspiracy to hide proof of a grizzly in colorado.
 

Blockcaver

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As per wolverines, I saw one near the lookout tower outside of Parshall in 1979. It came into my buddy Trackman's bear bait I was hunting that evening. DOW (pre-parks and wildlife) sent Jim Halfpenny, a biologist in to take hair samples and Jim reviewed my writeup on the sighting. No wolverine hair at the bait but he was only there a minute or so and left without eating. Later on, in a softcover book on Colorado mammals, my sighting was listed as a confirmed sighting per DOW. Anyway, I've seen one wolverine in CO and one other in Alaska.

As per Ed Wiseman, I knew him a bit and if anyone was capable of stabbing and killing a grizzly with a Bear Razorhead after an attack that put him in the hospital for a long time, it was Ed. Real bowhunter, guide and mountainman.
 

TR909

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The book "Ghost Grizzlies" is a fun tent read for the Colorado backcountry. It won't satisfy your curiosity though, IMO. It really just makes you think even more.
 

airlocksniffer

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Similar to the mythical Bitterroot griz population. Last I heard biologists said there were no bears but somebody always knows somebody, etc who has seen one. That country is pretty wild and I wouldn't be surprised if a small population is confirmed.
 

orionthehunter1

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My dad and I saw a wolverine in Southwest Colorado in 1996 during the winter. A friend from high school saw one down by the pine river that next summer, it was also our school mascot. Also have a friend who had an illegal bait barrel set up a few years ago in the mountains outside of silverjack reservoir. He has video of a grizzly coming in, but won't show it to DOW for fear of repurcusions for the illegal bait barrel. I've seen and killed a lot of bears here and I would bet my pay check that it is a grizzly in the video. Long claws, shoulder hump, and the slender long nose.
 

dotman

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My dad and I saw a wolverine in Southwest Colorado in 1996 during the winter. A friend from high school saw one down by the pine river that next summer, it was also our school mascot. Also have a friend who had an illegal bait barrel set up a few years ago in the mountains outside of silverjack reservoir. He has video of a grizzly coming in, but won't show it to DOW for fear of repurcusions for the illegal bait barrel. I've seen and killed a lot of bears here and I would bet my pay check that it is a grizzly in the video. Long claws, shoulder hump, and the slender long nose.
I want to see this video!
 

jdmaxwell

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Not sure why I'm posting this as no one will probably believe me.
2012 I killed bull in San Juans. 3 days later bro in law and I hunted back to kill site.
We set up calling for a bit when 200 lb black bear came running out 300 yds above us.
It kept looking behind it. As we glassed it, I said to my bro in law "don't move, there is a brown bear coming".. 200 yds above us stepped out a huge brown bear. It had the big bull on its back, and silver tip fur. Very easy to see.
It turned and started towards us as my bull carcass was between him and us. At about 150 yds from us we scrambled and got out of there.
We didn't sleep next nights.
We know what we saw. We have killed many black bears before too.
Believe what you like. This was our experience.
 

BigAntlerGetter

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We had a client this year swear up and down that they seen a grizzly at 25 yards. Said they were sitting having lunch when a bull ran through the meadow they were watching. It happened so quick they just sat there and watched him go by. Couple seconds later the client said he looked up the trail and here came a brown bear running down the trail. He had a bear tag but said it was a pretty small bear, it came down and then walked right past them. He said it had a hump on its back, slender nose and huge claws.
I only questioned this because they said the bear was the size of a blacky cub, so I'm not sure if a grizzly that small would have a defined hump.
Are they here idk I spend a lot of time in the woods, I find lots of tracks and have never seen one that said to me grizzly.
 

dotman

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If anyone likes the idea that there may still be Grizzlies in CO, read the book Ghost Grizzlies.
 
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