wild kingdom


Yesterday I was working on the garden fence, trying to create a lattice of sticks against the length of mesh that elk or deer (or both) keep breaking down to get to the garden. It was warm and quiet. Then I noticed a black bear about 20 feet away, ambling up from the little pool below the crabapple tree.

All day that bear hung around. It sat in the water and fished out fallen crabapples. Then it climbed the tree and ate as many scabby crabs as it could.

prince of the apple towns

It made us a little nervous. When we yelled at it to get lost, it very mildly watched us. When I banged on a pot lid with a metal spoon, it didn’t move. After dinner (which we ate on the deck, because it was the first sunny day in ages and winter’s coming…), I went upstairs and after 20 minutes or so John called up that he’d opened the door to go outside and the bear was at the bottom of the steps by our sliding doors.

I think this is a two-year old, last year’s yearling whose mum encouraged it up onto our upper deck (using the stairs, if you please) to drag away some tiny tomato plants and claw a little mason bee house down from the wall.

The mum—this bear’s mum?—was in the old orchard last night, with one of the twins she began the summer with. When I spotted her and showed John, she raced into the woods, cub at her tail. She at least knows that it’s not good to hang around the humans. It almost never ends well, particularly for bears. (I did call the conservation officer this morning and left a message. Many years ago we had a problem bear and the officer brought the trap—it looked like a culvert on wheels, with a sturdy door that springs shut when a bear enters, tempted by the bait of fish smeared with peanut butter. We were told the bears got one free ride to new territory and as that bear didn’t return, we hope he learned his lesson.) We don’t leave out garbage. Our kitchen garbage—and there isn’t much of it because I shop with the knowledge that we are responsible for taking our own garbage to the landfill so I choose stuff that can be reused or recycled—goes to a container in a closed shed. We do pick our fruit but those crabapples are growing on a huge old tree (it came as a young tree from John’s mum nearly 40 years ago) and we can’t reach them. We leave them for the grouse, who love them, and every few years a bear will climb and eat and then leave. This one has outstayed its welcome. That picture at the top of this post? It’s the bear, just now. I took the photograph and then it stretched out for a nap on the warm ground.

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