Story and photo by Rick Emert
Apparently word is spreading that Fort Carson is the “best hometown in the Army.”
A bear and her cub were first spotted in a tree near Gate 1 July 9. They later spent several minutes at Child Development Center East, leading officers on site to evacuate the children from the east facility to the nearby Child Development Center West, said Michael Simon, conservation officer, Directorate of Emergency Services.
“In this situation, with a mother and cub, we had another child care facility nearby, so we evacuated the children,” he said. “We wanted to ensure that the parking lot and front door were clear of children to ensure public safety.”
The area surrounding the CDCs was cordoned off by military and Department of the Army police officers to keep traffic and people away from the bears.
“The officers at the scene had taken the necessary steps to ensure people were safe before I arrived,” Simon said. “They are trained in dangerous situations, and they recognized the danger to the public in this situation.”
The bears eventually ran west toward Patriot Elementary School before moving into a drainage system and disappearing into heavy vegetation, Simon said.
“Our overall goal is to get the bear off the installation; whether the bear is willing to cooperate with us is another story,” Simon said. “We want to wait it out and try to drive it off the installation or into an area where they will be safe. We primarily allow them to move off the installation.”
Simon said he didn’t know how the bears got onto the installation, but in watching them leave he said there are not many obstacles that could stop them.
“In guiding them off the installation, I’ve seen them climb a 12-foot fence without even slowing down. They will crawl under the fence or go through the drainage system,” he said.
The number of bear sightings annually on Fort Carson is based on several factors including weather and the availability of vegetation, but there are only a handful of sightings in any given year, Simon said.
The sightings, especially of sows with their cubs, are primarily from early spring through the summer, he said.
“Just as we would teach our children, they are teaching the cubs how to survive,” Simon said. “She’s teaching it where to find food. There was food in the trash container (that they rummaged through).”
There were no injuries or damage to property during the bears’ visit of Fort Carson, but Simon offered some tips people should follow if they encounter a bear:
- Back away slowly, looking in the direction of the bear.
- Ensure the escape route is clear.
- Stay away from cubs; sows will protect their cubs at all costs.
- Contact the emergency services dispatch office at 526-2333, give detailed information on where the bear is and provide a call back phone number
Simon said that wildlife encounters on Fort Carson are inevitable because of its location.
“We live in a wildlife-rich area,” he said. “We’re close to the mountains, and there is a lot of good vegetation. There is a great wildlife habitat on Fort Carson.”