Wandering bear comes to town

Ron Burtz
A visiting bear appears to be making the rounds and is perhaps looking for a taste of city life. A black bear was spotted at least twice in and around the town of Custer in the early morning hours of Friday morning. 
Sam Nicholai was on his way to Pleasant Valley Road west of Custer at about 5:15 a.m. to help launch a hot air balloon as a member of the crew of Black Hills Balloons. He had just passed the Super 8 Motel when he and his passengers saw the bear on the south side of Hwy. 16 in the vicinity of the Stage Stop Gift Shop. 
Holy....! That’s a big dog!” one of Nicholai’s passengers exclaimed as he hit the brakes, bringing the vehicle to a stop.  
As they watched, the bear entered the roadway and then paused after Nicholai’s vehicle stopped.
After that brief stop, Nicholai says the animal took off at a run toward the motel.
“I don’t think he wanted to hang around us very bad,” said Nicholai, who managed to snap several pictures on his cell phone as the bear ran north across the Super 8 parking lot and presumably into the hills beyond.
The critter must have taken a bear-ing on the north star because half an hour later it showed up less than a mile straight north of where it was first spotted. 
Janice Stalder was rearranging plants on her porch at Buckhorn Mountain Estates west of the Custer Cemetery in the early morning light at 5:45 a.m. when she saw something dark moving through the trees on her neighbor’s lot. 
“I just looked over there and I saw something really, really dark going through the trees,” she said. 
Thinking at first it might be a black cow or calf, Stalder realized it was too large to be a dog. She watched the animal as it moved through the trees. 
“Then, when it came out of the trees and into a clearing, you could see obviously it was the bear,” she said. 
“It was scary. It kinda was,” said Stalder, who added the experience made her start shaking a bit. “It’s just hard for your brain to realize you’re actually seeing a bear.”
Stalder soon recovered her composure, however, and, realizing she didn’t have her phone with her, she went into the house to get it, got into her car and started driving to try to spot it and perhaps get a photo. 
The bear didn’t hang around for a photo op, however. Stalder said it appeared to be headed north out of town at a pretty good pace. 
On Monday, June 22, a black bear was seen and photographed by several witnesses in an area just north of Hermosa along Hwy. 79. It appeared to be headed west at the time. 
Is it the same animal? One can bear-ly hazard a guess.

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