Usually when a bear climbs a tree, it’s bound for refuge.
“If they’re scared or at all spooked, that’s one of their lines of defense, to get to higher ground,” says Cody Wigner, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife assistant wildlife manager based in Colorado Springs. “Also, that’s just kind of where they hang out. That’s their safe spot.”
Not so for the old bear who late Monday scampered up a Ponderosa pine near a Woodland Park residence. A wildlife officer reported to the property early Tuesday to find the tree scarred by lightning, the big, black body fallen on its side. He rested in his final bed of pine needles and grass.
The creature was weighed at 300 pounds. His age was still uncertain to Wigner, but at a glance he considered the bear mature.
“There’s never a normal day” on the job, Wigner later reflected. But this was especially abnormal. In his six years here, he said, he could recall only one other instance of a tree-dwelling bear’s death by lightning. He said it’s more common for one to climb a power pole and get electrocuted.
Bear corpses are inspected for salvageable meat and fur, Wigner said. “That way, it’s not a total waste of that bear, that resource. We try to retain any resource we can.”
But he estimated this poor bear to be beyond that. “My guess is the meat’s probably not that good. And the hide, that looks pretty singed.”