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Bear opts for pizza over education in Colorado Springs

September 14, 2015 Updated: September 15, 2015 at 5:48 am
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A bear cub wandered the streets of downtown Colorado Springs on Monday, before entering a local pizzeria and settling down for an afternoon nap.

The sighting and subsequent invasion into Louie's Pizza's prep room was one of several bear incidents to make headlines in 2015 and keep Colorado Parks & Wildlife officials springing into action.

Matt Robbins, a spokesman with Parks & Wildlife, wasn't able to provide statistics Monday for this year's bear sightings in the Pikes Peak region. When asked if occurrences are on the rise, Robbins said people seem to be reporting sightings more frequently.

Robbins said bears will definitely become less visible once the first snow comes and the animals begin to hibernate.

"We just have to wait until it cools off a little more," he said. "We're all waiting. And I'm the first one on that list."

Blanca Caro, the Colorado Springs police school resource officer at Palmer High School, said the bear's presence in downtown Monday nearly caused the school to go on lockdown. But further investigation revealed that the animal was not a threat to students and had made its way to Louie's Pizza on North Tejon Street.

Caro said an unidentified person had notified the school when the bear was seen in the area of East Boulder Street and North Nevada Avenue. The resource officer asked staff to hold off on the lockdown order until she investigated. Caro didn't find the animal so she continued searching the streets.

"I started heading west on Boulder and that's when I got flagged down by an employee at Louie's Pizza," she said.

The employee of the 311 N. Tejon St. pizza restaurant told Caro that the animal had been on the opposite side of Boulder and must have smelled the pizza. The animal entered through an open door, walked past the restrooms and found its way into the pizzeria's prep room. There he ate some icing used in Louie's cini-bread and curled up on the second shelf of a storage rack.

One of the employees, Sawyer Janney, said he was startled when all the commotion began, not by the bear but by a co-worker.

"He just yells 'bear' and runs outside," Janney said.

Louie's founder Louie Sciarotta said a horde of Palmer High students had just left the shop moments before the bear arrived.

By the time officers with Parks & Wildlife showed up, the bear cub was sound asleep on the shelf.

"He (the Parks & Wildlife officer) went back to that corner, woke her up and then tranquilized her," Caro said.

Robbins said the cub appeared to be malnourished and had an open wound on one of its paws. He said the wound was treated, and the bear was taken to a rehabilitation facility to recover.

"If we get that weight up and the wound heals, it will go back into the wild," Robbins said.

A woman who lives in the area near Palmer High School published a Facebook post about the sighting.

In the post, Andrea Lynn Barker said, "Lunch today on my front porch was extra exciting as I noticed a little bear cub run down the alley and cross Saint Vrain heading south into the Palmer High School parking lot. It was cute, moving fast, and also not using its back left paw... Luckily my dogs didn't notice as they were on the porch with me." Barker said the bear appeared to be alone. Robbins said his office is calling the animal an "orphan." And Caro also confirmed that no other bears were found.

"We have not gotten any reports of the mama bear in the area," Caro said. "That's a good thing."

When asked if Louie's would have special promotions tied to the bear's visit, Sciarotta said he'll likely do something on the Internet.

"Why not?" he said. "It's free advertising."

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