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Wake-Up Call: Back in bear country

"Please scare the bears," reads the lead sentence in a story from today's Wall Street Journal. "That is the message state wildlife officials are sending residents of Colorado communities besieged by hungry black bears with a taste for fresh-baked pies and other fattening human fare."

The bears, state wildlife officials assure us, are more afraid of us than we are of them -- and we need to remind them of that. "People will say, 'I went "shoo, shoo!"' That's not what we're looking for," Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, told the Journal. "We have to make it uncomfortable for them to be here."

This is comforting, if disconcerting, news for me.

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I am heading into bear country: my family's cabin north of Missoula, Montana (three miles north of the Giant Cow, if you've been around those parts). And all summer, there's been an unwelcome guest -- and I'm not talking about some pesky relative, but a black bear, which camped out on a neighbor's deck after devastating his barbecue, and feasted off another's cooler contents. We were discussing this raid a few weeks ago while sitting over coffee at breakfast, then noticed that the bear was swimming off the point. That meant it had just walked within a few feet of the cabin, and no doubt heard our conversation.

Maybe we scared it -- meaning the DOW might be onto something. Then again, this is Montana, not Colorado, and the bear trap installed by the cabin after our eavesdropping episode has apparently inspired no fear.

Probably some ursine chuckles, though.

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