Black bear spotted near Spearfish

A black bear, similar to this one pictured above, was seen rummaging through garbage cans in the Mountain Plains subdivision Monday morning. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

SPEARFISH — Almost exactly one year to the date that a black bear was captured on a trail camera near Rochford, another bear was spotted, this time just outside of Spearfish.

Patrick Nickles was sleeping Monday morning in his Mountain Plains home when his dog woke him up barking around 5 a.m.

“He never barks. I told him to go back to sleep, and about 10 second later he barked again,” Nickles said. “I got up and could hear scraping and rummaging.”

He looked out of his window and saw an animal he took at first to be a large dog rifling through his garbage cans near his shed. He knocked on the window to get the animal’s attention.

“I said, ‘Look, there’s a bear.’ Then I thought, ‘Surely that couldn’t possibly be a bear,’” he said. “It ran off and it was indeed a bear.”

He said the bear was cinnamon in color and he estimated it might weigh approximately 200 pounds. 

Nickles said his trashcan had a couple teeth marks and scratches on it.

A neighbor’s trail camera captured the bear. A series of four pictures, black and white, shows a bear walking through short grass surrounded by deciduous trees.

For public safety awareness, the Pioneer is identifying the general location to inform residents that there was a predatory animal spotted in their vicinity.

The trail camera photo from 2018, taken by Jonathan Deuter of Black Hawk, shows a dark, not jet-black, bear walking down an overgrown two-track road.

Trenton Haffley, regional terrestrial resource supervisor for the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, said trying to judge the size of a bear based off of a trail camera photo is very difficult.

He did say that the animals are likely different bears based upon the different colors.

In recent years the occasional bear or wolf sighting in the Black Hills is reported. 

In 2016, during the Crow Peak Fire, an Oregon-based hot shot crew reported to Black Hills Pioneer freelance photographer Kacie Jo Marta Nickles, that they saw numerous signs of bears, including scat, while fighting the fire.

“As they wander around like large predators do, that’s just what we are going to see,” Haffley said. “It is important for folks, in that area in particular (Mountain Plains), but really as these animals wander around the Hills, a bear can show up in garbage at any point. Folks just need to be thinking about where they are leaving their garbage, how secure it is, maybe if nothing else put some sort of weight on top of the container to keep the lid down. We don’t want to get bears habituated to garbage.”

Nickles said he has seen bears before in other state, but never imagined he would spot one here.

“I love the wildlife up here. We see everything all the time, but it was the first time I saw a bear,” he said. 

“The funniest part was, the puppy who was trying to save the day, when we were walking out, (to go to work) he got to the threshold and would not go outside. He knew there was something big and scary out there.”

Historically, black bears and grizzly bears have lived in the Black Hills. The closest population of black bears would be the Bighorn Mountains, which according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, has, “a robust black bear population.”

Wildlife biologists captured nearly 100 bears from 1988 to 2005. Male bears ranged from 120 pounds to 440 pounds while females weighed 85 to 250 pounds.

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(3) comments


Where is the trail cam photo? It is misleading to have some random photo of a bear that was not near the area associated with this article. And people wonder why fake news has become an issue at every level!


They stated that the photo was a bear that traveled through in the past, they didn’t try to pass it off as the most recent bear.


Or that it was like the bear in the trail cam photo.. either way.. they stated not the recent bear

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