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