A good bear should fear humans,
a good bear should run
This bear was fearless,
the bear didn’t run —Julie Gomez
It was a warm afternoon in late August. After a morning of writing, I took a break. I sat in the living room reading Girl In The Woods, by Aspen Matis who was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and in desperate need of water. I glanced up, and turning the page, saw a dark figure. Past the dining room, beyond the back deck, on the other side of the cyclone fence was a small black bear.
My first thought was, this is a cub, but the yellow teeth (which I would see later) and bold behavior suggested otherwise. This was an adult female (sow); males (boars) are much bigger. Careful not to let her see me, I watched quietly through the window. I wanted to get at least one photo before she bolted. On the other side of the fence, she lay flat on her belly like a bear rug. Her huge paws worked like pinball flippers pushing crumbs of cracked corn in her mouth; crumbs the birds and deer neglected to finish. Not wanting her to get too cozy, it was time to send her on her way.
Without saying a word, I opened the door and stepped onto the deck. The bear stood on all fours looking at me. She didn’t bolt. My presence had no effect. She’d lost her fear of humans. Sadly, she was a garbage bear or worse, deliberately fed by humans. Either way, her lack of fear made her a dangerous bear. For her safety, and mine, I wanted her to fear humans. I had to let her know that her presence was not welcome here. I smacked pans together, but she didn’t even flinch. She just stood there, watching me. I rattled a coin tin–this always sends the bears running, but not this girl. She didn’t budge and just stared at me. It was unnerving. I needed to a bolder approach, so I decided to charge at her. I moved quickly at the fence with arms raised to appear larger. Shaking the coin tin, I shouted Get out of here! In slow motion, she stepped back about four feet. My ears were ringing, so I swapped the coin tin for a big stick and smacked it against the fence. This time, she calmly backed up another six feet. I then picked up a handful of small rocks and threw them at her. This too, had no effect. She sniffed and pawed at the ground, maybe thinking it was food. There was no scaring this bear. So I gave up and went inside to get my camera.
She stayed much of the afternoon. She bear-hugged a cedar tree. In a split second, she had climbed ten feet, then slid and dropped to the ground. It was impressive how quick and easy she made it look. Without conversation, and no food to satisfy her, she eventually wandered off.
I didn’t trust this bear and used caution when I went outdoors. Two days later, she was back. This time, there wasn’t even a crumb for her to eat. I’d made sure of that. A neighbor said they saw her roaming the road in the middle of the day. The bear was making her rounds checking all the trash cans along the road. She rolled our bear proof trash can halfway up our driveway twice, but couldn’t crack it open. The bear stayed for several weeks during the forest fire that forced us to evacuate twice, but thankfully never reached us. Although I haven’t seen her since mid September, I’m not letting my guard down. She might be out of sight, but she’s not out of mind. I know she’s still out there.
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