You hear rumors, you know. At this time of year everyone up here on the mountain gossips about them. I hear it at the grocery store while I dawdle in the vegetable section. The neighbor crosses the road as I work in the flowerbeds to tell me what he has heard. Emails fly around too. Someone always knows someone who…. But when it hits the paper, with photos, you know there is something to the story.
Last week a 726-pound black bear was trapped a few miles down the mountain from my house. The local residents complained because someone over there was feeding them. Fish and Game tranked, weighed and released him. One article said they treated a nose injury while another said he was “aversely conditioned” to discourage him from returning to the area for food. What does that mean? Was he admonished severely with a shaken finger; spanked; shot with rubber bullets as he staggered away? Why all the fuss about this bear? His size. Most of our bears are teen-bears 250-300 pounds. At over 700 pounds, he was a big’in and therefore presumably scarier. (I saw a 800 pounder over on Gould Road a few years ago that was soooo big, his belly was almost dragging the ground. Truly a sight to behold—from the safety of the car.)
There are flyers and signs everywhere to remind us about how to live in “bear country”. The free weekly paper publishes helpful tips every spring. Nowhere does it say feeding the bears is OK. In fact there are laws against it. There is a concerted effort to minimize contact. We have all been issued 2 special screw-top heavy plastic “bearcans” to use for garbage and advised not to put it out the night before pick-up. We are told to be aware of our surrounding and not to be stupid. But apparently some people are.
It is hard to forget that we are part of their world and not the reverse when they amble through our backyards or take the path of least resistance and stroll down the street. I have them in my yard not infrequently at dawn and dusk. They have destroyed numerous birdfeeders when I have forgotten to bring them in. They have pooped in my yard, drank from my birdbaths and scared the bejezzus out of me when I come down to the kitchen and find one looking in the window.
Yes, I live in bear county. I am careful when I am outside. I make noise so they know I am around. I do not compost my veggie parings, although it kills me to throw them out. I have made adjustments.
I love to see them and stare with hushed awe as black on black one materializes in the gloom to cut across my lawn nose quivering to go about her day.