'Twas the week before Christmas, when outside a big creature stirred.
The cleaning lady called upstairs to John Grewe, retired and living in a wooded neighborhood south of Colorado Springs.
"John!" the lady hollered on this afternoon, a day before a winter storm rolled through town. "There's a bear on your back porch!"
As he has for many years in the many cases of furry visitors, Grewe grabbed his camera. He walked out the back door, onto the deck and guessed the black bear to be 120 pounds. He snapped pictures as it ambled along the railings, chowing on the seeds from two bird feeders.
Standing in the cold, a thought came to Grewe. "Shouldn't he be sleeping?"
Yes, most of Colorado's bears are hibernating by now, their bellies full from months of hunting and garbage-gobbling. Most will stay in their dens until around April or May.
But not all are satisfied.
"It's not uncommon for bears to be active in particular areas and neighborhoods year-round," said Kyle Davidson, representing the local region of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "When their natural food source dies off, they know it's time to go in. But if they live by a neighborhood where they have access to food, some of them will keep coming out to get that evening snack."
It was an afternoon snack at the Grewe home. He and his wife, both bird lovers, hang up the feeders high in the warmer months, out of a bear's reach. During the winter, they hadn't thought it necessary. That was until now.
"I think they remember where their food source is," said Grewe's wife, Dorothy.
Once when a bear attacked the Grewe garbage, John threw a stone at it, connecting with a paw and sending the animal in a scurry. Scaring is the right tactic, said Davidson, who explained that bears live longer and healthier when they are in their natural habitats, fearful to be around humans.
And it's best for the Grewes when they don't have to clean up after a bear. They usually can depend on Hoover, the resident brown squirrel who Dorothy calls "a great guy," eating up scattered bird feed like a vacuum.
"He probably won't come out," she said. "I think he's hibernating."