Everyday, it seems, there is a news report of a bear or bears seen strolling through someone's yard, or in a park where people are camping or even a hapless bear that has wandered into town, causing a near-panic.
Frankly, I find it hard to comprehend why folks seem to think that when they clear a patch of woods and build a house there, whatever wildlife called that place home will simply disappear. They wonder why a bear, for instance, keeps tramping around "their" property. They call the Game Commission and demand the raiding bear be removed from their premises.
Well, wild animals are just not that smart. They lived there first and they are wandering about trying to figure out what to do about the intruders who took over their habitat and now just expects them to scram.
Bear sightings in the woods or around parks etc. are to be expected. What frightens and upsets bears is the panic and screeching and excited dashing around by humans at the mere sight of them.When excited, especially a female with cubs, they go into defense mode. If given half a chance they will simply run away. Their natural defense tactic is to simply climb a tree; they know most enemies cannot follow them there.
Last year I took my blind out to some area State Game Lands and set it up on the edge of a small field, ringed by thick Russian Olive bushes. Not much was happening so as I often deliberately do, about 9 a.m. I leaned back and allowed my self to snooze. Shortly, however I woke with a start.
I heard strange snuffling, heavy-breathing sounds directly behind my blind. My instant thought was that it was a hunter so I leaned out the side window of my blind to take a look and came face to face with a black bear! Another, smaller bear shot out of the Olive brush like his tail was on fire and I realized that here was a sow and cub that had gotten much too close.
She was sniffing and snuffing, trying to figure out the strange scent in the air. It was me, of course, but my scent was covered by the copious amounts of insect repellent I had put out. When she saw me she swapped ends and beat it out of there. To me, the sight of a bear in the woods is always a thrill; having one within five yards is not so thrilling.
Now the problem really was, not that the bears had dared to invade my space, but that I had inadvertently invaded theirs. After the bears were gone I looked around and realized that in those moments before daylight when I had set up my blind, I had chosen a spot where a thick bear trail cut through the thick Russian Olive.
As I told that story to some friends I got exactly the reaction I expected. "Weren't you scared" one lady asked me. "If I saw a bear in the woods I'd be running as fast as my feet would carry me," she said. Exactly the wrong answer.
Black bears in the woods are more scared of a human than we are of them. They are elusive and seldom seen, that's why it is such a great thing to spot one in the wild.
If you do see one, you just freeze and enjoy the sight. You have no hope of outrunning a bear. Whether it is a bear or a squirrel, I do not like to have any wild creature get too close to me in the woods.
Not because they are ferocious beasts that will attack because they are not. It's because they are very frightened of human beings and if they are startled by one at very close range they just might strike out in defense. I can imagine that the bear I startled had lots of stories to tell to his den mates about the awful human that almost got him.
Bears that people deliberately bait to their back yard are another story, however. These are the bears you might want to be leery of - the ones that humans think they have "tamed", that they try to feed from their hands. This is a foolish practice in the extreme. Nothing good ever comes of wild animals being conditioned to tolerate people so they can get the food they want. Animals, especially bears, are opportunists. You put corn, apples, scraps, bird seed or whatever out behind the house and bears, squirrels, raccoons, and assorted other critters are going to come get it. They consider it theirs and they can get testy if you try to get too close or remove the food or take photos or whatever.
Which brings us to bears that come to town. Every morning this last week, local news reports were relating stories of a bear that was spotted walking through town or behind someone's garage and the panic that ensued. One such sighting prompted the closed a nearby school.
Why are black bears come to town anyway? Primarily it is because June begins the breeding season for bears. When a sow bear has cubs, she does not come into estrus again for about two years.
So at that second year, her first order of business is to chase away her now one and a half year old cubs. This is a harsh task; she chases and growls and lets them know they are no longer wanted.
The juvenile males are confused at this turn of events. Female bears will just usually wander off and find a new home not too far away but the male bears tend to start wandering to find a new territory in which to live. Their searching often takes them right through the streets of a town or behind the outbuildings of a farm.
When such young bears are spotted, if they were just left alone they would keep going until they found a suitable piece of habitat. But people seem to think that a bear comes into town looking for someone to eat. Not so. They are looking for somewhere to call home.
They may be distracted for awhile by a whiff of Fido's dish of food on a back porch or by a bird feeder, but they are not on a mission to attack a human being.
A bewildered bear, looking for a new home and encountering a crowd of hysterical onlookers scoots up a tree, a trick his mama taught him, and it cowers there feeling trapped.
Someone then calls the Game Commission, they come and administer a tranquilizer drug and transport him out to a new home far away and the officers wonder how long it will be before they have to rescue it in some other town.
If you spot a bear crossing your backyard, just give it a wide berth and let it go on. Remove from your yard things that give off an odor that pulls bears in: trash, the barbecue grill not yet clean from last night's cookout, the dog dish, the bird feeder. If nothing attracts him to your house, he won't stay around.