Freshmen weren’t the only new arrivals to CSU Thursday morning.
A male black bear cub wandered onto campus and was spotted in a small elm tree near the intersection of Laurel Street and College Avenue around 6 am.
“At first there were just a few people and two police officers,” said Drew Rosser, a junior landscape architecture major, who was one of the first people on the scene. The officers attempted to keep the bear in the tree, where it would be easy to capture, but the cub panicked and bolted across the lawn, scurrying up a tall pine tree, Rosser said.
News of the bear spread quickly and within an hour a large crowd had formed a circle around the tree where the bewildered bear cub was trapped.
Colorado State Division of Wildlife officer Dave Clarkson, perched in the bucket of a CSU grounds maintenance department boom truck, attempted to secure the bear with a noose attached to a pole.
The officers did not want to tranquilize the bear until it was secured with the pole to prevent it from falling from the tree. Yet they had to be careful not to get the noose around the bear’s neck where it could strangle to death, said DOW officer Jim Jackson.
“I was more curious than scared,” said Eric Koslowski, a junior mechanical engineering student who was on the scene early.
The crowd circling the tree grew to approximately 50 people and four television cameras had appeared by 9:30 a.m.
Several times the crowd gasped as Clarkson came close to securing the bear only to see it scurry out of his reach. At the same time, men on the ground frantically maneuvered an inflated rubber raft, attempting to keep it positioned directly underneath the scrambling bear.
“The raft was there to catch the bear in case it fell,” Jackson said.
The 25-pound bear proved an elusive target. It evaded capture for nearly three hours, clawing its way up and down the tree just out of Clarkson’s reach, at one point climbing to the very top of the swaying pine tree.
Finally Clarkson managed to partially secure the bear, at which point CSU Police Department Capt. Bob Chaffee separated the crowd to be sure that no one would be struck by an errant tranquilizer dart.
When the cub was tranquilized, Clarkson fully secured the bear and hoisted it into the bucket of the boom truck. Once on the ground it was placed in a cage on the back of a DOW work truck as the crowd surged forward for a better look.
“This time of year a bear has to eat about 10,000 calories a day in order to put on fat for hibernation,” Jackson said.
Bears will follow creek drainages, where berries are plentiful and ripe, down from the mountains. Sometimes they come too far down, Jackson said.
The bear was born sometime this spring and somehow become separated from its mother, he said.
The bear was too young to be returned to the wild and DOW officials said it would have to be placed into a rehabilitation program with the intent of releasing next spring.
Capt. Chaffee could not remember ever hearing of a bear on campus, at least since he had started at CSU in 1977.
“Ensure your own safety first then notify campus police immediately,” Chaffee said, when asked what students should do if they ever see a bear on campus.