Ghost Grizzlies
  
Ghost Grizzlies
Does the Great Bear Still Haunt Colorado?
Published:
4/26/2014
Format:
E-Book (available as ePub files) What's This
ISBN:
978-1-46894-649-9
By 1952 it was thought the grizzly bear had been wiped out in Colorado, pushed to oblivion by predator-phobic sheep ranchers and government trappers. Even so, through the mid-1900s, ghostly stories of grizzly sightings continued to haunt remote corners of the dark-timbered San Juan Mountains in the southern-most part of the state. Then, one spooky September evening in 1979, a flesh-and-blood Grizzly sow was surprised on its daybed in the South San Juans by a bowhunter ... and the rest, as they say, is history. Or is it? As author and veteran outdoorsman David Petersen takes us along on his quest for evidence of "the next 'last' Colorado grizzly," we find ourselves enjoying a masterful mystery unfolding, character by adventure, page by riveting page. Although Ghost Grizzlies is set in Colorado, it stands as a timeless metaphor for every wild place and creature that finds itself under the gun of human encroachment still today. This revised third edition has a new cover, 12 new pages of photos, and updates.
November again, and the little death of winter has descended on the San Juans. Since last night, two heavy wet feet of snow have fallen here in the southwestern Colorado high country, hiding the sun and hazing the last holdout bears into their winter dens. This morning, the thermometer shivered at nineteen degrees. This is only the beginning; it will get a whole lot colder, the snow a whole lot deeper, before this winter is done. Like the bears that inspire me, the recent snow and cold and abbreviated days have abruptly ended my summer's wilderness roamings and chased me into my own winter den, such as it is-an eight-by-twelve wooden storage shed fitted out as a poor man's study, insulated against the cold. (So small is my work den that first-time visitors are prone to remark, "Oh, is that your outhouse?") After this fashion I imitate the bears, who drag warming mattresses of grass and evergreen boughs into their grottoes. For the next five months or so, I am destined to huddle within these close confines and scribble, even as the bears sleep, snore and dream their wild dreams of "lumbering flatfooted over the tundra," as Galway Kinnell so poetically envisions the essence of grizzly bearness. In his wilderness classic Grizzly Years, my friend Doug Peacock wryly observed that grizzly bear experts these days seem to outnumber grizzly bears. Unfortunately, there's an ironic truth to that statement, prompting me to claim no such academic expertise. I am a mere bug-eyed student of wild nature, a chaser after its slippery truths ... a displaced and homesick Pleistocene man. In the past handful of years, the controversy surrounding the ghost grizzlies of Colorado has escalated from mere rhetorical gainsaying to an ironfisted clash of worldviews. As a full-time resident of the rural San Juan Mountains since 1980, I realized some time ago that here was a story in need of exploring, in need of telling. (It is a story, in fact, so close to home and heart that I simply could not not tell it.) Moreover, a great deal of unrecorded, or incompletely and erroneously recorded, grizzly lore still lives hereabouts (and for that matter, continues to find new voice in print) oral history with one foot in the grave and doomed, like the last of Colorado's grizzlies themselves, to be lost for all eternity if not soon preserved. Researching and writing this book has been an adventure of discovery, unfolding an event, a trip, a conversation, a chapter at a time and reflecting, I hope, the parallel unfolding of my knowledge, understanding and opinions: what I felt when I started is a far cry indeed from what I feel today. Even so, some old-line rural westerners and agency employees, a few of them my friends, may take umbrage at my criticisms of (to offer but one example of many) the U.S. Forest Service's antiquated, myopic and unsustainable policy of "multiple use"-a neat little euphemism comprising such decidedly un-neat forest abuses as overlogging, overgrazing, sloppy mining, rampant road building and a litany of boisterously destructive human recreational activities. Similarly, some ranchers, sheepmen in particular, may hold my views of their self-hallowed "traditional western lifestyle" in high scorn. Likewise, some hunters and outfitters, friends again among them, will attack my vigorous endorsement of the recent public condemnation (by vote) of the more egregious aspects of bear "hunting" in Colorado, even as indiscriminate enemies of all hunting will damn my defense of the honorable aspects of this most ancient human activity. So be it. As my late friend A. B. Guthrie, Jr., liked to say, honest men have a right to disagree.
David Petersen has been a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, magazine editor, adjunct college professor and homesteader. David is an avid traditional bowhunter and recipient of numerous conservation awards. David and his wife Carolyn have lived since 1980 in a small hand-built cabin in the San Juan Mountains near Durango, Colorado.
 
 


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