Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

September 16, 2014

Bearly a Problem

It's embarrassing to admit, but when we first moved from the city to our rural lakehouse, I was scared out of my gourd.  The woods - at night! - tops the list of my irrational fears.  A lifetime of scary movies has taught me that bad things happen in the wood at night.  Shortly before the move, we started watching The Walking Dead, and that's when I learned that the woods can be terrifying during the day too.  The episode in which Hershel's idyllic, country farm is overrun by walkers hit a little too close to home and that's when I stopped watching.  Only recently have I been able to come home in the dark without spending half an hour parked in the driveway, petrified with fear of what's lurking outside and trying to screw up the courage to open the door.  I can now stand on the deck at night while Szuka does her evening perimeter check/pee, instead of cowering inside with all of the lights on.  When something goes bump in the night I'm not immediately drenched in sweat, certain that my untimely demise is imminent.

Photo Source
Despite the bevy of irrational fears that have shaped my experience of country life, I haven't - until recently - been afraid of more plausible threats, like bears.  I've seen black bears, here and there, but I always felt safe in my backyard because black bears, we're told, tend to avoid people.  Predatory black bear attacks, although horrific and gruesome when they happen, are really very rare.  Still, habituated bears - those that are accustomed to humans and aren't afraid - are worrisome.

Photo Source
Recently I shared a photo on Instagram of one of our apple trees with a branch ripped almost clean off.  I suspected a bear, and it was confirmed last week when a neighbour anxiously banged on our front door to let us know a bear was in our apple tree, high among the branches, and refusing to budge.  He eventually ran off, but she was really concerned by how unfazed he was by our presence.



The neighbour told me someone else in the area had been confronted by a giant, 200+ lb black bear, who determinedly, yet slowly, approached her while she was out walking.  She in turn slowly backed away but he followed, so she tried to make herself big and tall and noisy but still he confidently moved toward her (probably not unlike the curious bear in this video).  He was only scared away by a passing truck.

This description sounded eerily like what might happen before a predatory attack.  For the first time, I became afraid of what's actually lurking out there, in the woods.  I felt somewhat safe because Szuka is always by my side (and she's a big girl), but then I read that dogs can be the worst around bears: some run up to a bear and nip it, then turn around and run back to their owner with the bear in hot pursuit.  Szuka, still just an adolescent and fun-loving pup, is goofy enough to do that.

Illustration Source
I decided to do a little research and see what I could do - in addition to buying bear bangers and bear spray, which I stocked up on - to keep bears away (plus what to do in the case of an encounter!).  The number one rule for keeping safe in bear country?  Hide food sources (garbage, compost, etc).  That's kind of a no-brainer, and despite my former penchant for fox-feeding, we've been diligent about not leaving food out.  I have no idea what possessed the former owner to plant two juicy apple trees between the house and the garage.  But then I saw this photo of a woman feeding a black bear and I realized that sometimes smart people just do stupid things.

Photo Source
We had been meaning to chop the trees down, but last fall there were no confirmed signs of bears coming to our yard (we thought we saw bear poop, but now I'm not so sure), and so it hadn't seemed urgent.  Plus, we liked the leafy privacy they afforded.  Well, it turns out that last year there was a big bear hunt in the area that eradicated the bears, but without an organized hunt this year, more black bears began appearing.

A couple of Instagram friends told me we could interrupt the fruit cycle and still keep the trees.  I thought that might be a good idea but suddenly the fruit tree removal seemed very urgent.  The persistent little black bear started appearing daily and I was worried he'd bring bigger, even bolder friends.  Even though he's small, I knew that he could still do damage if provoked - especially if he took a swipe at Szuka.  He tended to appear around the time we went outside to play fetch - and I started to wonder how many times he'd been only a few feet away without us realizing.  One night I decided to read about every fatal bear attack in North America in the last hundred years, and it had me wishing for a comforting episode of The Walking Dead.  Did you know that a woman was mauled to death in her kitchen when a black bear burst through her window and attacked her?!?  Hubby and I decided, definitively, that the trees needed to go.  Right now.  Luckily, my father-in-law was kind enough to drop what he was doing and come by with a chainsaw.  He expertly cut down the trees (digging up the ground around them so the sawed off stump won't protrude) and then we bagged up all of the apples.  I still need to cut down and dispose of the heap of branches, but the larger chunks of wood we'll dry out and burn.  We mourned the apple trees a little, and the heap of brush has certainly not added curb appeal, but I feel a lot better now that the lure of delicious applies is gone.


The bear will still come back for a bit, out of habit, until he realizes that the apple buffet has officially closed.  The neighbours have blueberries that have yet to ripen so it's entirely possible that he'll still be hanging around the area, snacking.  Hopefully, though, no additional bears will be drawn to our yard because we never leave out anything tasty.  At least by the time our little guest grows to his full size, our apple trees will be a distant memory.  In the meantime, I'm not going outside without bear bangers and bear spray, plus I've put a giant bell on Szuka's collar so we don't accidentally crash a teddy bear picnic.

See ya, little guy.
SHARE:

30 comments

  1. oh man! i would not want them near me either- we live in black bear country and they are spotted all the time in our area. i have never seen one, but i will be sure to throw rocks at it if i do. ;) i think in a moment of panic i would be more like a deer in headlights than able to think clearly. let's hope i never find out- your neighbor is really lucky that truck came by.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hopefully they stay out of your way! In all likelihood they're more afraid of you. Just FYI, bear bangers are so small - the launcher is the size of a pen - so it's easy to clip on to yourself, just in case. It helps to practice, too, so you're prepared.

      Delete
  2. So crazy! I could not imagine walking out my door to see a bear. Near our cottage in Wisconsin, there is a guy that just lets the bears hang out with him and sit with him on his porch. It baffles my mind that someone would do something to dangerous to themselves and all of their neighbors.
    Hopefully cutting down the apple tree did the trick!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm just happy my encounter was with this little guy. I really don't get feeding bears. I mean, sure, they're cute. And most likely not dangerous but when they do attack it can be fatal. Why risk it?? Plus, even a gentle bear could really hurt a child - even by accident.

      Delete
  3. We live in the Seattle suburbs, 20 miles from the city, and we had a bear in our backyard two nights ago. It bent our hummingbird feeder right through the fence (though amazingly it took off the bottle by unscrewing it but it didn't break the glass cylinder). They've been hanging out in our area since we moved here two years ago with sightings of bears in the trash and banging on neighbors garages, even stealing fish from koi ponds. I'd be terrified to think what living in the actual woods is like!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bears really are quite clever!! I think your situation sounds just as unnerving. I heard a news story about a woman attacked in her garage in a suburban area by bears rummaging through her trash. Your neighbors need to band together and get rid of food sources and anything that can lure them.

      Delete
  4. I've watched each of the links you gave and I'm officially scared off from hiking in the woods!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no!! I'm so sorry, that wasn't my intent. Encountering a bear, let alone being attacked, is so rare. You just need to be prepared and preferably not alone. Now, zombies on the other hand pose a real threat ;)

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. But then I need to report it and fill out a ton of paperwork. I hate paperwork.

      Delete
  6. Hi Tanya!
    So I am also from the healthy fear of bears camp. Thanks to my dad. Before heading out to the West coast by myself, I did a lot of research about bears, bear attacks and spent much of my 2 months out there talking to local folks about bears. I am not sure if it was good or bad for me as it somewhat fed my fear while making me feel better. Here is some things I found out - there are NO bear attacks reported in Canada of people in groups of 4 or more. So if you go hiking, bring 3 friends! Regarding dogs and bears. You really won't know how your gal will react until you meet the bear and have the dog with you. As you read, some dogs are 'bear dogs' aka deterrents and will scare them off and others are attractants (nip the dog and then run back to you and bring the bear with them to you!!!). Because I spend quite a bit of time with Nan off leash out in the woods, I am constantly thinking about this. I still have yet to know if Nan is a bear dog or not. Because she is a res dog, many people people have told me she 'definitely is' but based on her silly chase/curious/loving nature, I kind of doubt it. I think having excellent recall is so important if you encounter wild life - so maybe to make yourself feel better, make recall your number one training priority with Szuka - although it already seems like she is pretty well trained although she is young? I have put my bear bell on Nan before which made me feel better. I always think the best approach is being proactive, like you have been with getting rid of the apple tree and being smart about bears - make noise, try not to surprise them, never leave food out etc. Simple! I have been told that even with a bear dog on the property, bears will pass thru if it is part of their 'route'. I saw this on Victoria Island. It is often young male yearlings that decide to start investigating homes and human areas but like all your research has revealed, they are scared of us. As a tip, I got myself one of those small portable boat air horns - cost 10-15$ and I carry it with me. The volume is alarming and will give the bear a warning. Unfortunately bear spray sucks - the bear has to be in your face basically before it works its magic. A man who worked in a hunting store told me that he always carries a large knife with him when he walks alone with his dog in the woods. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your awesome tips!! I'll look into boat air horns. Hopefully the bear bangers I got will work - they make a loud, firearm type noise, I'm told, and as small as a pen. But an air horn would be loads cheaper! I've also thought about how friggin close a bear needs to be for that spray to work...yikes.

      I will definitely wrangle three friends into hiking. No solo traipsing through the woods for me!

      It's funny you mention recall, because I've been working so hard on that! Szuka is, usually, excellent. She comes when called, is obedient. But she also has a willful streak and was bred to guard and protect, which involves patrolling the property so when something is off, it can be difficult to get her back. We've been working on it, though, and she seems to be improving. I've been able to recall her mid-chase and she begrudgingly comes to me (but refuses to eat the liver treat, lol). We're saving up for a fence, so she gets a feel for a physical boundary (and hopefully it will help keep wildlife out a little). But you're so right - recall is very important and we have been concentrating on that. A Komondor, supposedly, is strong and brave enough to fight off a bear or wolf - it's what they've been bred to do for thousands of years. That's one reason a Komondor was so appealing as a breed: low energy most of the time, but fiercely protective and strong. But they're also supposed to be really aggressive and she's so sweet. I've worked so hard at training her and socializing her not to be dangerous, but still protective, but now I've worried I've made her a softie. At 91 lbs, she's also not that giant - some males are around 120+. I think that also, the dreaded coat of the Komondor is an asset as it creates a thick barrier predators cannot easily bite through, but my gal is so naked with her cropped do.

      I hope I never find out what she will actually do with a bear...it keeps me up at night. I think a lot about it, especially now that it's a real concern. I got her to protect me, but I'd totally have to fight the urge to dive in front of her to save HER.

      Delete
  7. It's scary to think that black bears can be so aggressive at one point and then be so innocent at another point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so true. Most bears are just a nuisance and make a mess of garbage. But when they do attack, it's ugly. I guess they're kind of like people. Most people aren't dangerous, but the ones that are violent...

      Delete
  8. I wonder if air horns would work? Now I'm rethinking what I should take when I go hiking.
    Good luck with making the house a bear-free zone!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think air horns are an excellent idea. Meagan (and earlier commented) recommended them. I'm definitely going to buy one and experiment the next time a bear is lurking and see what deters him better: air horn, bear bangers, etc. I'd recommend a trip to an outdoor store - the kinds that sells firearms and hunting gear - to see what they suggest. They can also show you how to use whatever you end up deciding is best for you. There's always the option to sing loudly. Hopefully they'll be really put off by top 40 hits and stay out of your way.

      Delete
    2. The air horn I have is smaller than my bear spray... And apparently more effective since it is shockingly loud. I got it after someone told me that a bear was brushing up too close to their tent in the middle of the night and they got their car keys and made the panic alarm go off - thus scaring the bear off... My dilemma previously was that I was going to be camping in the interior and not car camping so then what.... So I got the horn!

      Delete
  9. We live out in the suburbs and have problems with bears too. I live about 2 blocks from a smallish river which is lined with trees, so we occasionally get them here in the area.....but mostly racoons. Over by my moms house, she lives near a dyke, between a larger river and a creeks with lots of woods, but still the suburbs...and they just walk down the street like they own the place. My son had never seen one before so one night we came across 3 of them just chillin around the neighborhood and we followed them, from a distance in the car, so he could see and they weren't fazed by us one bit. I was actually on that dyke about 13 years ago and came across a bear about 200 feet away....and we had to walk towards it to get to the path to get out of there. Was a little scary but there were plenty of other people and I just hoped at least one of them was slower than me lol. That's horrible I know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You totally made m laugh but I'm going to pretend you didn't because that's terrible :) it must be extra weird to have bear problems in the suburbs. It makes sense, though, because I'm sure there's loads of garbage and yummies to eat.

      Delete
  10. I've always been paranoid about bears while camping and always carry bear spray. We had a close encounter with one this summer (you can read about it here) and that was enough for a lifetime.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oops, here's the bear post (or should I say the tree sap post with a bear). It was definitely unnerving. http://alspolkadotsandpaisley.blogspot.ca/2014/08/removing-tree-sap-from-mesh-sneakers.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My interest is piqued!! Can't wait to read about your encounter, thanks for the link!!

      Delete
  12. On a positive note, applewood makes a lovely fire, even if you only top up your "regular" fire with a few branches. We actually buy the cuttings and cullings from a local orchard.

    We had a very protective Puli when I was young, she actually herded my baby sister back to the house every time the kid wanted to play in the yard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's good to know! I've never burned applewood. Haha, pulis do herd it's so funny. My aunt had a puli /pumi mix and he was small but just as confident, lol.

      Delete
  13. Been having trouble leaving comments- just lost a lengthy comment. Not going to retry but letting you know I'm still reading and engaged just having difficulties with blogger comments (not specifically your blog). Hope you've seen the last of the bears.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh gosh, that's so annoying. I hate when that happens! I'm sorry blogger is causing problems. I've considered moving to wordpress but I'm scared :)

      Are you on Instagram? I spend a lot of time over there if that's an easier place to connect. Then I could spy on your house updates... I'm technically also on twitter but I have yet to start doing that regularly.

      Thanks for letting me know you're still here...I was actually thinking about you yesterday - weirdly! - I was wondering how you're doing and how your decorating is going.

      Delete
  14. We moved from Detroit to rural Wyoming and bears are pretty much my fear #1. I was casual about things at first, regularly riding our ATVs in the forest without so much as bear spray before the locals warned us that we needed to take them seriously. Thought I know some won't agree, we now don't ride without firearms. Though bear spray is better than nothing, it's just not a really good solution. If there's wind, you may end up spraying yourself more than the bear!

    Around here your bear presence would probably lead to intervention from the Fish & Game department. Once a bear becomes that casual about coming around people/homes, they're a big threat. Do you have a local agency that you can call?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Speaking of firearms, the other day someone fired a shot gun in the neighborhood and it made me wonder if that's why I haven't seen the bear since...

      I know bear spray isn't ideal. If you have firearms, it's a good idea to have them handy! But there's a weird regulation here that if you shoot a bear on your property, it's okay, but if you shoot it off your property it's classified as hunting, even if it was for self defense. That's how it was explained to me, at least. But I'd rather a fine than the alternative!!

      There is a dept. we called but I don't know what action they took - if any. Maybe I should call them again...in any case, we haven't seen him since of heard of any additional encounters.

      Delete
  15. I recently watched a PBS thing about polar bears terrorizing Canadian towns while they wait for the water to freeze over. Not cool! It made me think of you and your bears. Even though black bears don't seem as blood thirsty as polar bears, I would probably be terrified at all times. I'm already afraid an owl will swoop down and snap up my Pom if he is unattended during his pre-bedtime parole.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've always wanted to visit Churchill Manitoba because you can go our in these big vehicles and look at Polar bears. I think I'm not as leery of polar bears as I should be!! Could an owl scoop up a wee pup?

      Delete

You've made my day - I love hearing from you! I approve comments only to keep out the spam, so don't worry if your comment doesn't pop up right away.

© Dans le Lakehouse | All rights reserved.
See What Inspires Me on Pinterest