Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bear Makes Tracks On The Road

The recent picture shows muddy bear tracks moving along Beaver Creek Road near our home.  Bear visits us regularly.  We don't see her, as she is shy.  Bear leaves many signs.  In this picture, bear was moving through the marsh and got her feet wet and muddy before crossing the road.  ODFW has useful information about keeping bear wild and avoiding problems with bear.  This year the berry crops are not good and are mistimed because of cold weather.  Bear is out looking for food, with human interactions more prevalent.

This time of year bear comes to the lower part of our garden and climbs the garden fence.  She came a week ago.  Once inside she strips all the apples off of a tree and breaks several branches when doing it.  The tree has been severely pruned by bear over the years and keeps growing back to make good apples.  It looks more like a bush than like a tree.

Bear came two weeks ago and tried to break into a shed that we keep trash in.  She probably smelled some food wrappers.  Bear left claw marks on the shed and tore off a piece of a corner for good measure, trying to get in.  She didn't succeed.  I took the trash to the dump soon after, to discourage any further clawing.

A few years ago, bear succeeded in tearing off the whole front of our trash shed and getting at several bags of trash that were inside.  There was no garbage (food scraps) in the bags, but food wrappers are enough to tempt bear.  We were gone for several weeks to China and Tibet and I did not get a chance to take the trash to the dump before we left.  When we came back, the front of the shed was lying on the ground with claw marks all over it.  However there were no trash bags to be seen.  I said, 'Did bear take the trash to the dump?'.  I walked around and could not find any trash, except a food wrapper off in the woods behind the garden.  While we were gone, a couple of friends were checking on the place.  One day they came and found the shed destroyed and trash strewn all over the garden area.  They thought that it would be nice for us if they picked up the trash.  They are very thoughtful people.  They collected all the trash and took it to the dump for us.  How fortunate we are to have these particular friends who undid bear's mischief and cleaned up our mess.  We are deeply grateful to our friends.

In past years, bear came and dug up yellow jacket wasp nests that were built in the ground.  When I first came to this land, there were many wasp nests in the salmonberry bushes and in the ground.  When I cut trails and cleared fields, I would run across these nests and get stung.  After awhile I started to become allergic to wasps and got very good at observing and avoiding them before they saw me.  About the same time bear began to dig up wasp nests in the ground.  After a few years, wasps have all but disappeared from our land.  I have bear to thank for vigilant removal of wasps and protecting me from allergic reactions.

Bear digs up the ant nest on our land in the fall.  Bear does not bother the nest any other time of the year but seems to come to it in the fall, when it is big and full.  She is looking to fatten up for winter with extra food and is particularly interested in this nest and huckleberries on bushes surrounding the fields.

Bear likes honey.  One summer June day, I was standing on our driveway and heard a loud buzzing in the swamp east of the driveway.  I walked out through the brush and came to a large cedar tree that had a big hole in the trunk about halfway up the tree.  Bear had climbed up the tree and dug into the hole, spilling honey comb down the side of the tree and onto the ground.  The wild bees were flying around and getting used to the idea that bear had stolen much of their honey.  Apparently I had arrived at the tree shortly after bear had left with the stash.

In the spring, we see cedar trees in the forest behind our place that have been clawed by bear, seeking inner bark for eating, or marking territory (see herehere, and here).  Bear is good at finding insects.  One spring, bear came and broke our well during the insect hunt.  I used to have a heavy wooden box over the well head, that was filled with insulation so that the pipes did not freeze in the winter.  I would take the box off as the weather warmed so that I could attach a hose for watering the garden.  This particular spring, the weather got warm early, before I had removed the well box.  Ants had crawled up into the insulation and made a big nest.  Bear got wind of this situation.  I woke up one morning and turned the water on in the house and no water came out of the faucet.  I started looking around and saw that the cistern was empty.  I walked down to the well head and saw that the box had claw marks on it, was turned over, and the pipe broken off the well.  All the water had drained out of the cistern.  So I took the morning off from work and set to repairing the pipes and filling the cistern.  I got rid of the well head box and replaced the freeze protection with a simpler system.  I wrap the pipes with insulation and bubble wrap and then place a plastic garbage can over the well head.  I am sure to remove the cover and insulation before any significant spring warming so that bear is not tempted to maul the well.

So bear is our unseen companion.  We enjoy her mischief and good deeds.  Bear is trying to make a living like the rest of us.  We can make bear's live easier by removing human-made temptations and obstacles and watching her go about the business of wildness without our interference.

Posted by michael

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