... Could have made hash out of me, but didn't. It walked fairly close to me, my wife and a third person last Friday afternoon. We were all birdwatching in the canyon, searching, successfully it turned out, for a Mexican warbler that rarely comes to the U.S.--the slate-throated redstart.
The bear approached us and came to maybe within 20 or so feet of me as I held a felt pack full of lunch food. It made all of us nervous before it suddenly turned around and walked off.
I've heard that a bear had attacked a vehicle parked at the canyon the day before and roughed it up. Tanja Linton, a public affairs officer at Fort Huachuca, told me that occurrence helped trigger closure of the canyon, after bears had been a presence and an issue at the canyon and its surroundings for some time.
"The bears are clearly searching for food. A vehicle was damaged last week by a bear searching for food. No attacks on humans have been reported. We're taking these measures to keep it that way," Linton said in an email to the Star.
She said she had no statistics on how many bears have been spotted in the canyon area, but added that, "We're seeing bears there on a pretty regular basis." Earlier this summer, she said, a mother bear playing with her cubs was photographed in the Huachuca Canyon area.
Overall, bears have been an issue in the Huachucas and their environs since the 2011 Monument fire destroyed much of their habitat and their food and water sources, said Linton and Mark Hart, a State Game and Fish Department spokesman.
From mid-July to mid-October 2012, the department took 100 nuisance bear calls in a much broader area, from Fort Huachuca south to Miller Canyon lying south of Sierra Vista, spokesman Hart said. Four bears were relocated elsewhere, two subsequently came back and one of the returnees was put down, he said. Another one of those four bears moved to the Patagonia Mountains, then crossed the border into Mexico and was killed by the Nogales, Son. Police Department, Hart said.
At this point, fort officials don't know how long Huachuca Canyon will be closed, Linton added.
"We've got our folks keeping an eye on this situation," Linton said. "When we get a sense that the bears have moved onto other foods sources, once we feel it’s safe for people to get back and engage in recreational activities in the canyon, we will open it."