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Backyard Bear: A Close Encounter

Backyard Bear: A Close Encounter

On a rainy afternoon a few weeks ago, my family had an unexpected visitor – a black bear. In the 25 years that we’ve inhabited the house and the densely wooded property and pond that surrounds it, a multitude of wildlife have stopped by to visit. I’ve written about wild turkey, heron, and snake sightings in my pond. Deer, rabbits, foxes, turtles, coyotes and small rodents are common guests. On that gloomy, quiet afternoon, we noticed a very large, dark creature moving along the edge of the woods.

A large black bear lumbered into the backyard. It seemed to be checking all of the spots where our birdfeeders hung. My husband had taken down most of the feeders when spring arrived with its plentiful bird food bounty – except for one feeder.

We have a detached studio that is about 75 feet from our house. The bear made a beeline to the feeder on a tree in front of the studio. It had obviously been here before, as it seemed to know exactly where each feeder was located (yikes!). In the meantime, all four of us ran to get our cameras and keep our dogs in the house and quiet.

Let me interject with the caveat that I was quite frightened. I had never seen a bear this close (except in a zoo), and while it was such a magnificent sight to behold, I knew I would never wander around my woods in a carefree manner again. Back to the bear…

We peered out the windows like we were the bear paparazzi. The bear stood up (all 6-7 feet tall) swatted at the birdfeeder, then suddenly it stopped and glanced around. The bear seemed to be taking in its surroundings. At that moment, my two dogs picked up the highly charged vibe and ran from window to window in a barking frenzy. In an instant, the bear jumped onto an adjacent tree with a concerned look on his face. Then it inched down the tree and headed off in the direction of my neighbor’s house. We alerted the neighbor to put his dog in the house. After running down my neighbor’s driveway, the bear took off into the woods.

Backyard Bears – What To Do:

According to Yellowstone National Park, black bears are omnivorous. They eat both plants and meat protein, but primarily vegetation, supplementing their diet of grass, berries, nuts and seeds with an occasional meal of carrion (dead animals), insects, or any mammal they can catch, or dig up.

Although bears are generally shy and usually avoid humans, they are opportunistic and will search for human food supplies when natural foods are not available, or when they are easy to obtain.

Keep your outdoor spaces free of food odors that may attract a hungry bear’s attention – garbage, bird food (the culprit), pet food, fruit trees, outdoor grills and even compost piles are the most common bear invitations.

Have you had encounters with bears at your home? Please share your experiences and ideas on what to do if you encounter a bear. Thanks!

Photos: Ted Fink

Read more: Behavior & Communication, EcoNesting, Environment, Family, Home, Lawns & Gardens, Nature, Nature & Wildlife, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Ronnie Citron-Fink

Ronnie Citron-Fink is a writer, editor and educator. She has written hundreds of articles about sustainable living, the environment, design, and family life for websites, books and magazines. Ronnie is the creator of Econesting, and the managing editor of Moms Clean Air Force. Ronnie was named one of the Top Ten Living Green Experts by Yahoo. Ronnie lives in New York with her family.

69 comments

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8:47AM PDT on Aug 8, 2013

Good point, Brenda!

11:10AM PDT on Aug 6, 2013

I live on in acreage just outside of a city in Saskatchewan, and unfortunately we have dealt with all sorts of animals. Badgers, deer, coyotes, etc. But only once have we been around a bear. It's best to just keep the animals inside, remain calm, and let it be. It's likely that the bear is merely passing through, looking for food. It's best to leave the cubs alone as well. Sometimes they look like lost dogs at the side of the road, but be careful. I do love bears and they are wonderful creatures.

9:00AM PDT on Aug 6, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

8:00AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

They are bound to head for human habitation. We must learn to co-exist amicably

3:46AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

Great article. Thank you for this.

1:22PM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Amazing!
Thank you

5:06AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Thanks for the article.

11:30AM PDT on Jul 3, 2011

"Part 2., cont', . . "

Even though the area was amply shaded we'd left the windows down to help her to stay cool. (And after her 'close encounter' earlier she was in no hurry to get out of the car anyway!)

I neglected to say earlier, that she was also spayed. Some say that has no effect on their weight, others beg to differ. I only know that she was a "well rounded" plump Sheperd and with the nose still somewhat swollen I suppose at a glance she probably looked more like a bear than a dog at that moment.

As it turned out when we were returning to the campsite and the ranger was at his vehicle, he was actually getting ready to use a 'dart' gun on the 'bear' as she had growled at him when he first approached the car during our absence.

Some years later when we transferred yet again--this time to AK-my husband did encounter a black bear. Every morning as a matter of fact when his unit went out on a field exercise. A young black bear "got wind" of the smells coming from the mess tent . . . well, I feel sure you readers know the rest of that story. He showed up every morning and it got to be such a routine that they just put all the leftovers/scraps in a certain place and the little fellow knew just where to go.

11:15AM PDT on Jul 3, 2011

maria p., and Mary B., thank you both for real informative input!! I've not had the "back yard" experience but did have a "back seat" experience once on a camping trip. Actually we were driving from KY thru TN to get to NC to my husbands new duty station. We'd never been to the Great Smoky Mt.s, and with a couple of extra days we decided to camp there for a while. Along for the trip was the childrens 'nanny'--our black Belgian Shepard. Our first night there went without incident. Other campers were pitched in close by and I think out of respect and sheer awe of those mountains it was a relatively quiet camp area.

The next morning found us having a 'campfire' style breakfast and as we ate the 'Nanny' was snooping around and before we knew what happened she was yipping loudly. We ran to were she was and it seems she had disturbed a nest of hornets near the creek. Her nose began to swell almost immediately. We took ice from the cooler and wrapped it in a towel and placed it over the swelling. She soon stopped whimpering and we put her in the car--in the back seat where she held reign over the kids.

A park ranger showed up a bit later as we were returning from a short walk. He was at his vehicle as my husband walked toward our car. The ranger ran toward him yelling for him to stay away from the car. My husband told him it was our car--but the ranger didn't want him to get any closer . . because a "bear" had gotten inside of it.

Cont' . . . next post, please:

8:00AM PDT on Jul 1, 2011

noted with thanks for the posting

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