Man Injured by Bear in Las Animas County

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A 29 year old man from Farisita, Colo., was injured Wednesday afternoon when a bear swatted him. Harold Cerda was working on a private ranch near Stonewall (a rural area about 25 miles west of Trinidad) when he stopped to use an outhouse.

While he was in the outhouse, a bear climbed in the open windows of his car. Cerda's lunch was on the front seat.

The bear ate Cerda's lunch while he was in the outhouse. When he came out, the bear was walking in that direction and took a swing at him, hitting him and knocking him down.

After hitting Cerda, the bear ran about 100 feet up a hill and Cerda started walking toward his car, which was about 30 feet away. Just then, the bear came back. Cerda ran to his car and started the engine to roll up the electric windows. "All four windows were down and they go up real slow," said Cerda. "I got them closed just in time."

Cerda locked himself inside and used the camera on his cell phone to snap a few pictures. That's when he noticed the remnants of his lunch strewn about.

Cerda suffered bruising and possible nerve damage to his neck and shoulder area. He was treated and released at a Pueblo hospital.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife set a trap for the bear. The bear will be destroyed if it is captured. "Wildlife policies are pretty straight forward when it comes to bears injuring people," said District Wildlife Manager Bob Holder. "Our first priority is to make sure people are safe."

"This was a chance encounter," said Holder, "but in most conflicts between people and bears some sort of food source is involved. In this case, it was the lunch left within easy access. People should remember that windows and doors of vehicles should be shut and latched to prevent entry. The same holds true for homeowners. An open window or door is an open invitation for bears. Bears can tear through screens in a matter of seconds."

In recent years, wildlife officers have documented incidents where bears have ripped open the trunks of cars with food in them.

Aggressive bear attacks are rare, but encounters such as this one are going up as Colorado's population grows. The bear population has not increased, but the number of people living, working and recreating in bear country has.

There are no definite rules about what to do if you meet a bear. In most cases, bears avoid confrontations with people.

Here are some suggestions if you see a bear:

* Stay calm. If you see a bear and it has not seen you, calmly leave the area. As you move away, make noise to let the bear discover your presence.

* Stop. Back away slowly while facing the bear. Avoid direct eye contact, as bears may perceive this as a threat.

* Give the bear plenty of room to escape. Bears rarely attack people unless they feel threatened or provoked.

* Do not run. If on a trail, step off the trail on the downhill side and slowly move away. Do not run or make any sudden movements. Running is likely to prompt the bear to give chase, and you cannot outrun a bear.

* Speak softly. This may reassure the bear that you mean it no harm. Try not to show fear.

* If a black bear attacks you, use tools such as rocks, sticks, binoculars and even their bare hands to defend yourself. Aim for the nose or eyes if possible.


* Keep your camp clean.

* Store food and garbage properly at all times.

* Keep your tent and sleeping bag free of all food smells. Store the clothes you wore while cooking or eating with your food.

* Sleep some distance away from your cooking area or food storage site.

* Store toiletries with your food - the smell of toiletries can attract bears.

* Burn all grease off grills and camp stoves. Wipe table and clean eating area thoroughly.

* Store your food safely. Use bear-proof containers. Store food and coolers suspended from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet out from the tree trunk.

* Dispose of garbage properly. Secure it with your food, then pack it out. Do not burn or bury garbage.

* Female campers should be advised the scent of a menstruating woman is sometimes an attractant to bears.


* Hiking at dawn or dusk may increase your chances of meeting a bear.

* Use extra caution in places where hearing or visibility is limited, such as brushy areas, near streams, where trails round a bend or on windy days.

* Reduce your chances of surprising a bear on the trail by making noise, talking or singing.

* Make sure children are close to you or within your sight at all times. Leave your dog at home or have it on a leash.