Denver's big blue bear "Who's in There" by Lawrence Argent

Lions, tigers, and bears

Boulder bear falls from tree after being tranquilized
Boulder bear falls from tree after being tranquilized by wildlife officials. (CU Independent/Andy Duann)

I just turned on the morning news and it seems we have another bear situation in progress in the metro. We’re never at a loss for wildlife-vs.-man stories here along the Front Range. They are a given when the ’burbs bump right into the foothills where the critters dwell.

No doubt by now you’ve heard about the 200-pound bear that appeared on the CU campus in Boulder last week. In search of some higher education, he took to a tree after some close encounters with the student body. A short time later he was tranquilized by wildlife officials and fell unceremoniously onto some mats supplied by the athletic department. By now he has been released someplace up in the hills well away from human habitation. I understand the photo, snapped by a campus reporter/photographer, went viral, though I don’t know why. Doesn’t everyone encounter bears at breakfast?

My only experience with bears in the wild here was as a child. We were vacationing up in the mountains in Allenspark at about 8,000 feet and word went out that a mother bear with two cubs was visiting the local dump every night. We drove over one night and sat in the car to watch them forage. These days, of course, people know better than to create open garbage dumps in or near bear country.

Denver's big blue bear sculpture "I See What You Mean" by Lawrence Argent
Denver’s big blue bear sculpture “I See What You Mean” by Lawrence Argent

Bears are so ubiquitous in and around the foothills on the west side of Denver that they were an obvious subject for a piece of public art. And the result is my favorite work of art in the area. Commonly referred to as just “the big blue bear,” the Lawrence Argent sculpture is actually titled I See What You Mean. The bear stands 40 feet tall outside the Denver Convention Center, peering in like a curious passerby. He was installed in 2005 to commemorate my arrival in Denver. (Not really, but coincidentally, that is the year I moved here.) His blue color came about by accident. Originally he was to be a sandstone color, but one of the early printouts of the design came out blue by mistake, and the artist liked it so well he adopted it.

Argent got the idea for a bear when he saw a newspaper picture of a black bear peering into someone’s window, something that happens with some regularity around here. Not until later did he learn that the black bear was very important to the Native American Utes that lived in Colorado, and that one level of spiritual enlightenment for the Utes was the “blue” level.

(In closing, I’ll note that this morning’s suburban wanderer has been safely tranquilized and captured and will be taken back into the hills and released this afternoon.)

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