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Bears at the Academy: Not here for the education

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Academy mascot might be The Bird, but if the institution's feathered friend isn't careful, he just might have his status usurped by one of the many Black Bears spotted here this summer.

Joggers, dog walkers and, well, everyone else, should keep an eye out for these rather noticeable omnivores, said the Academy's natural resources manager Brian Mihlbachler.

"This is the time of year the bears start to ramp-up their foraging," Mihlbachler said. "With all the rainfall we've been getting lately, there's been good berry production on a lot of the scrubs. All of that starts to ripen this time of year and provides a natural food source for the bears, versus them having to 'Dumpster dive.'"

The Academy is a natural habitat for Black Bears, Mihlbachler said.

"They've always been here, but they may be moving around a little bit more widely to take advantage of the new sources of food," he said.

Black Bears might not appear as formidable as some of their much larger relatives -- Grizzlies, Kodiaks or the Polar Bear -- but they can still be dangerous if surprised or provoked, Mihlbachler said.

According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, anyone inadvertently coming across a bear should stay still and give it chance to leave. If the bear doesn't leave, the division's website advises people to wave their arms and talk calmly.

If the bear huffs or stomps a paw, it wants to be left alone, so keep looking at the bear while slowly backing away from it, the website advises.

"The number one thing is to leave the area immediately if you see a cub as a sow -- it's mother -- its probably nearby," Mihlbachler said.

For more information, visit wildlife.state.co.us.