Imagine Mark Meiers surprise Thursday morning when he went fishing and caught a bear.
Meier had just launched his 27-foot boat powered by an inboard motor near the north end of Navajo Lake when he saw something at a distance in the water.
I couldnt identify what I saw as waterbirds, Meier said. But when I got closer I could see a mama bear, with a cub riding piggyback, swimming from west to east cross the lake.
The astounding thing is that the lake is about 1 mile across at that point, Meier said.
I followed but not too closely, Meier said. I didnt want to disturb them.
Photos Meier took with a telephoto lens revealed that the mother bear had a green tag with the number 56 stapled to her right ear.
Meier, through binoculars, saw the sow and cub reach the eastern shore of the lake and disappear into the trees.
He was captivated by the experience, Meier said, because in Switzerland, where he worked for IBM for more than 30 years, he didnt see such displays of wildlife.
Switzerland was too crowded, Meier said to explain why he retired to La Plata County, where he lives near the Piedra River.
Joe Lewandowski, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said its not unusual for bears to swim.
Bears love water, Lewandowski said. You dont see it every day, but they do swim.
The green ear tag indicates the bear was singled out for some reason in New Mexico, Lewandowski said. Colorado uses blue tags.
Brandon Griffith with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish said the bear was tagged as a problem ursine. He couldnt find more details of the bears history.
The black bears swim in Navajo Lake pales in comparison to the ordeal of a polar bear in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska.
In the December edition of Polar Biology, zoologist George Durner of the U.S. Geological Survey described how a female polar bear in August 2008 swam continuously for more than nine days in frigid water. Her cub didnt survive.
The polar bear was one of 13 outfitted with a GPS unit, a satellite uplink and accelerometer to measure activity in addition to GPS data.
Analyzing telemetry data and ice charts, researchers deduced the movement of the bear to reach sea ice.
Polar bears spend much of their time on sea ice. But with the increasing rate at which Arctic ice has melted in recent years, polar bears must swim farther to reach ice floes.