Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bears in the yard

I've been meaning to blog about our bears for a while, but reading this post about a bear in Colorado prompted me to get started on it.

The first time I ever saw a bear near our house it was in the late afternoon when a fairly young bear was wandering down the middle of the road. A car came by and when the driver stopped to get a better look at the bear it climbed a tree in fright. It didn't stay there long though. It seemed to figure out that the car and driver were no immediate threat, and it climbed down again and ran off into the woods.

We've seen them quite a few times since, some occasions more memorable than others. There was the time a bear climbed up on the basement hatchway to get at the bird feeder on the kitchen window. We'd removed all the other bird feeders from the yard a couple of weeks earlier after a bear bent the metal poles they were hanging on through 90 degrees. We foolishly figured that if the bear had left the one on the kitchen window alone, then it wouldn't come that close to the house. Wrong! We should have remembered the story (not apocryphal) about a family in town who had left the kitchen door open and a bear wandered right into the house and started ransacking the cupboards! My husband almost had a heart attack. He was standing at the kitchen sink, when suddenly there was a bear right outside the window only a couple of feet in front of him grabbing at the bird feeder. It pulled the feeder off the window, shook out the contents and ate most of them. (Given that it had earned itself little more than a snack I was surprised the bear left so much seed on the ground.) Once it was done emptying the feeder, it seemed to consider coming up on to the deck before wandering off to the neighbor's yard.

(Yes, although black bears are really not very agressive, I was safely inside the house when I took this picture.) We thought the bear had gone, but a few hours later when my husband went to take something out to the compost bin, he surprised the bear coming out from under the deck! It was making itself altogether too much at home for my liking! We never saw it under the deck again, but who knows?

A couple of times since we've been living here, the kids at one of the local elementary schools have had to stay inside the school at recess because there was a bear wandering the grounds. Many of the bears wear radio collars so that the state department of wildlife can track them. One of the kids, seeing the collar wanted to know who the bear belonged to!

The thing is, these bears are not way out in the countryside. Our house is only a couple of miles from the center of town. I've seen a mother bear and cub scampering down a densely populated residential street even closer to the center of town. Apparently, despite the fact that humans have been taking more and more of the bears' habitat for development every year, the black bear population is still growing - from about 100 in the entire state in the 1970's to somewhere around 3,000 now! An orchard where we used to see them when we first lived here is now a housing development. It's sad to think that, despite that, the bears are doing so well that it is actually legal to hunt them and dozens are killed every year for 'sport'. Although I seem to have terrified my brother-in-law in the UK with the thought that we have bears walking through our yard, they are rarely a real nuisance. (There was that one bear though that got drunk in a local orchard on fermented apples and wouldn't leave for a couple of days, but it wasn't in our yard, so I found that entertaining rather than a nuisance!)


Anonymous said...

Bears in your backyard? I must admit I'd have mixed feelngs about that one.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if the figure is still true, but this area (the three closest counties) have a density of 2-3 black bears per square mile!

That's an awful lot bruin around here!

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