Music supposedly has the power to soothe a savage beast -- but it can also annoy the hell out of one.
That's the lesson recently learned by personnel at Boulder Community Hospital. When they found a bear hibernating under a building on hospital property, they managed to drive it off by playing country music.
Boulder Community Hospital spokesman Rich Sheehan tells the tale originally reported by the Boulder Daily Camera.
"We have a couple of small cottages on campus that we let people use on an occasional basis," Sheehan says about BCH's Mapleton Center for Rehabilitation, located at 311 Mapleton. "And we had some frozen pipes. So, with the temporary thaw last Friday, we called a plumber. He was going to go under the cottage, but when he looked under the porch, he heard this growling noise -- and when he waved his flashlight around, he saw a bear under there and backed out as quickly as he could."
At that point, hospital personnel phoned folks at the City of Boulder, who reached out to the state Department of Wildlife. According to DOW spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill, hibernating bears "are not always aggressive. They can be like people when you wake them up -- kind of groggy. You can check on them and move them during hibernation, but you have to be careful."
One option would have been to tranquilize the bear, "but we didn't want to do that," Churchill notes, "because if we tranquilize it, we have to put ear tags on it, and it would have been considered a one-strike bear" -- a creature seen as a risk to the human population. "But it hadn't done anything wrong. It was just in the wrong location."
So the DOW recommended that "we make the environment as noisy and uncomfortable for the bear as we could," Sheehan says. "So we put a boombox in the crawlspace and turned it up as loud as it would go, hoping it would encourage the bear to leave."
And what was playing on said boombox? KYGO-FM, the metro-area's prime purveyor of hit country music -- meaning the bear was likely treated to/subjected to current smashes by the likes of Kenny Chesney, who's at number one on the Billboard country chart with "Somewhere With You," Keith Urban ("Put You in a Song," number two), Tim McGraw ("Felt Good on My Lips," number six) and Taylor Swift ("Back to December," number seven).
Sheehan points out that hospital personnel didn't choose country music because they figured it would be the most frightening music for bears on the dial. It just happened to be the station to which the boombox was already set, suggesting that its human owner likes the stuff. And granted, the bear didn't leave right away. He was first discovered Friday around 1 p.m., with the boombox switched on about an hour later -- and Sheehan thinks he left around 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning. So maybe he enjoyed what he heard at first, only to find it more and more irritating as time wore on, until finally, he just had to get out of there.
Country music has that effect on some people, too.
At any rate, DOW personnel noted a number of other, better hibernation spots for the bear nearby, and Churchill says they're confident he's now bedded down for the winter in one of them, enjoying the sweet sound of... silence.
Either that or he plugged in his ursine iPod and is jamming to this special country-bear mix we assembled in his honor:
Johnny Preston: "Running Bear"
Red Sovine: "Teddy Bear"
Eddy Arnold: "Smokey the Bear"
Tanya Tucker: "Teddy Bear Song"
The Country Bears: "Straight to the Heart of Love"
More from our Things to Do archive: "Bear sex? Horny elephants? Inside Denver Zoo's Singles Safari."
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