Aspen grizzly came from Alaska poster
ASPEN ” Whoever tried to pull off a hoax about a grizzly bear sighting in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness wasn’t very creative.
A picture circulating as alleged proof of the sighting appears to be an image stolen from Chuck Bartlebaugh, a photographer and representative of the Be Bear Aware and Wildlife Stewardship Campaign in Missoula, Mont.
“I believe the photo is one of mine that I took at Denali National Park in Alaska in 1987,” Bartlebaugh said in an e-mail interview. “I have used this photo, or one very similar to it, on about 20,000 posters. It has been published in numerous magazines and on high-quality gift cards that could be scanned easily.”
Bartlebaugh mailed The Aspen Times the poster he referred to, which originally came out in 1991. The picture is a spitting image of the photo an Aspen family gave to the Colorado Division of Wildlife as part of their story of an alleged grizzly sighting. Both images show a grizzly sow with two cubs.
The poster celebrates the grizzly’s grandeur: “The Last Great Symbol of the Wilderness,” the headline says. Bartlebaugh said he couldn’t be 100 percent certain that the photo of the alleged Aspen sighting was his because there were other photographers beside him in Denali in 1987 who might have gotten the same photo.
An Aspen family said their nanny took the photo while on a short hike that started at Maroon Lake. The nanny allegedly took the picture last fall with a small, digital camera, before scrambling out of the wilderness area and back to Maroon Lake.
The family later downloaded the images and learned her story and started showing the image to friends.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife heard the rumor, became curious and investigated. The agency was skeptical of the event but couldn’t dismiss it outright, spokesman Randy Hampton said. The wildlife division wanted to interview the nanny about her experience but the family claimed she was unavailable in Florida.
Chris Servheen, a grizzly expert with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said he’d seen the photo before and put a reporter in touch with Bartlebaugh.
Hampton said the investigation into the alleged sighting is over. “It’s frustrating for us to get this kind of stuff,” Hampton said.
The wildlife division wouldn’t release the name of the family that reported the grizzly sighting in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. It’s unknown if the family was hoodwinked or was part of the hoax.
The wildlife division is dropping the investigation and won’t try to find out who was part of the hoax or why, Hampton said.