In the previous bear story, I explained my reaction to my first bear encounter. Which would be most people’s reaction. “They WILL eat you”. Well actually, the national annual average for fatal bear attacks in the US is 3. Yes, you are more like to get killed by a dog attack, 26 fatal dog attacks on average. Usually, even with a fatal bear attack, it’s not because they want to eat you its because they are protecting themselves or their babies. Biologist will tell you bears eat roots, berries, grass, bark, fish and animal carcasses that have been dead for awhile. The stinkier the better. Well honestly if a biologist spent any time outside they would see what bears actually eat.
Thursday Trash Day
Thursday was trash day in our neighborhood. When I say neighborhood, I mean the last couple miles of houses before the national forest. It was all thick pine forest and a whole lot of seclusion. Really the only way I knew we had neighbors was the trash cans that appeared on Thursday mornings.
As I walked to the end of the driveway to meet the school bus one Thursday morning. I got to the end and looked down the road. I was instantly taken aback. Every trash can from our drive to the bottom of the road was tipped over. It looked like when my dad plows snow and knocks over our unbearable neighbors trash can, (unintentionally of course).
As I rode down the road with my face pressed against the window and every kid did the same, we were absolutely baffled. I saw one of our neighbors climbing up a small tree to retrieve a used diaper stuck out on a limb. Our bus driver dodged trash as we coasted down the hill and which made him twice as grumpy as usual. Dealing with us “god damn kids”.
Everyone started to get smart after cleaning up the trash so many times. At 7 AM, rather than the night before the trash cans would come out. Some people even would sit and wait for the garbage truck to come to make sure the culprit wouldn’t destroy the can. Some say they saw the black beast enjoying its meals in the middle of the road on early mornings. No one could give a good description of the beast, everyone described all different characteristics… only providing one thing,… there was more than one.
We always knew who was new to the area when there was a can put out the night before and the next morning you would see them out picking up the trash and looking for their can 2 miles down the road.
From my extensive studies … trash is not the only thing bears eat..
Chocolate Chip Cookies
When my dad does favors for people usually food is given as a thank you. An elderly lady that lived down the road had my dad fix something of hers and in return left some chocolate chip cookies on the table of our back deck when we were not home. As we were getting in late not one of us saw the cookies sitting there.
The middle of the night rolls around and I awoke to a “thunk’ on the deck. Everyone ran to the door. By this time we observed a medium-size black bear roll his fat butt over the railing and into the darkness. I ran to grab the spotlight and found him at the edge of the lawn where he turned and faced us and then plopped down in the grass. My dad went inside to grab the bb gun. He had the idea to shoot him in the butt and maybe he will learn the deck isn’t his jungle gym. I held the spotlight and my dad went to aim. There was no clear shot just the bears face. Not wanting to shoot the poor creatures eye out we stopped and just watched. All you could see in the darkness was the shiny beady eyes and his tongue licking, licking and licking. We left the guy there and went to bed.
The next morning we found what was left of a ziplock bag perfectly clean. Later on, our neighbor asked, “did you get the cookies I left on your back deck?”
Bears seem to be attracted to our deck because one summer night I woke to a large crash from the deck which shook the whole house. I laid there trying to figure out if it was an earthquake or a bad dream, when it happened again. Then immediately I heard my dad stomp through the house like a herd of elephants. I spring out of bed and ran to the deck door. I saw the deck light come on and my dad comes flying back through the door with no clothes on and in pure shock tripping over himself and panting. While he ran back through the door the house shook again this time at tenfold and there was the sound of metal crashing around. My dad yells at me not to look even though it was too late. As he threw on some pants. Right next to the deck door is our grill. When my dad ran out the door the bear was at arm’s length. Both the bear and my dad had a heart attack.
My mom was up at this point and as we all looked out the window of the door to see a very large black bear at the end of the deck trying to pull the grill up over the railing with him. My dad now after catching his breath opens the door again and yells at the bear.
The bear eventually gives up on the grill and disappears into the darkness. We returned the grill to its correct location and went back to bed.
The next morning I was exploring the edge of the property when I came across the wire grill brush as clean as a whistle and gnawed up like a chew toy for a dog.
Throughout the neighborhood, hummingbird feeders were all the rage and it was constant popularity contest on who had the most hummingbirds. Until one summer when the feeders within a 2-mile radius of us, were bone dry on a daily basis. The “damn birds are eating us out of house and home” my mother would say.
An elderly couple down the road finally saw the culprit one afternoon. A medium sized brown black bear was spotted out the window of their log home. The bear was enjoying the afternoon by sitting on their hot tub cover and throwing back hummingbird food. Apparently, the bear had a hold of the feeder upside down and just tilted his head back and chugged the half sugar half water concoction. After basking in the evening sun the bear decided to end the show by dragging his syrupy paws all over the glass windows. As if he was faux finishing a wall.
Not only do bears like to eat trash they like to get “trashed”. One very cold late October morning I was walking alone through the woods with my bow looking for deer. When I stopped due to the feeling of hairs sticking up on the back of my neck. I looked around to find 3 little bears probably a year old hanging around an apple tree. The apple tree I knew well due to many tummy aches from overeating those wild apples.
I love to watch the bears so I sat down in the pine needles and observed. The curious little guys climbed up the tree and started to eat what was left of the apples.
When all of a sudden one of the bears fell out of the tree and started rolling around on the ground. Another started to slide down hitting all the branches along the way. Once he reached the bottom, he stumbled over to the tree and tried climbing back up but couldn’t. He would make it a foot up and fall back down. The 3rd one slumped into the limb and hung flaccid. I sat for an hour and watch these clowns of the forest get drunk. Later after their buzz wore off they wandered off into the timber. I walked up to the tree to smell the strong scent of yeast and rotten fermented apples.
In reality, I hope you learned that bears will eat almost anything and everything that is most convenient to them. If that convenient thing happens to be you I hope you are traveling with someone slower than you… (for obvious reasons), carrying healthy food and no apple flavored booze.
Side Note: My dad always said if a grizzly bear is attacking you throw kale at them because “even they won’t touch that shit”.