Lloyd Anderson and the bear

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
These pelts displayed by the Chapson family who lived along the San Juan River West Fork shortly after 1900 provide proof positive that trapping was a productive business in old Pagosa Country. I don’t know if any of the bear hides are grizzly, but I do know wolverine and lynx are in the collection.

We continue from last week’s column the story of now-deceased Lloyd Anderson’s encounter with a grizzly bear up in the Weminuche Country circa 1952. I got the story directly from Anderson several years ago.
You should remember from last week’s column that Anderson was a paid government trapper investigating the killing of livestock by a bear. Anderson’s claim that the bear had been a grizzly was pooh-poohed by his bosses who claimed no grizzlies existed in Colorado. The year was circa 1952.
An experienced trapper, Anderson prepared his trap, a large, iron spring trap no longer legal. Anderson baited the trap and then attached a large log to prevent the bear from disappearing with the trap on his leg. Satisfied with his work, Anderson moved a short distance away, staked out Old Paint and made camp. The trap had been set near one of the carcasses. Nightfall came and Anderson dozed off, sleeping with one eye open as most of us experienced backpackers do.
He was awakened by the snorting of Old Paint and the roaring of an enraged bear, forcing its way through a willow thicket with the trap on one leg dragging the huge log.
Up at first light, Anderson skipped breakfast and, leaving his skitterish horse behind, walked across the clearing toward the thrashing sound coming from the willow thicket. His rifle, I think I remember him telling me he preferred a 30-40 Krag, was ready for instant use. As he approached the site where he’d set the trap, drag marks and a path of torn-up willows guided him to a huge bear desperately trying to separate itself from the trap.
One shot put the bear out of its misery. Anderson proceeded to skin the monster and boiled the head until only bone remained. When the boiled head arrived at the Game and Fish office in Denver a few days later, they confirmed it was a sure-enough grizzly.
I think a trapper friend of Anderson who lived at Saguache killed a grizzly the same year near where Fish Creek empties into the Piedra. Another grizzly was killed by a man named Ed Wiseman near the headwaters of the Conejos River in Banded Peaks Country in 1979. Wiseman was bow hunting. The bear turned aggressor and got him down before Wiseman managed to kill it by forcing an arrow into its throat.
Next week we’ll return to stories about Banded Peaks Country, including my encounter a few years ago with a black bear near the South San Juan Wilderness trailhead near Price Lakes.

This story was posted on August 19, 2018.