“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Friday, October 11, 2013

A visit from Ursus Americanus

I have been working all morning on getting the house squared away. I keep it pretty neat and orderly, but as I get one thing done, I see something else that should be done. I think I'm about ready for the kids arrival though.

If you have dogs, you know they communicate just like we do.  Different grunts, groans, sighs, growls and barks all have a meaning.  My dogs will sometimes bark at night, then listen to see if any dogs answer them. Other times, when they think something is in the woods or they smell something ,  they'll bark in a completely different tone, a kind of interrogative that lets you know they are mildly concerned about something but not upset.

When they think there is a real threat, but it's not imminent, they'll bark as loudly as they can, and the whole group joins in.

The final stage is when they are seriously alarmed. Then the barking is deep, loud and staccato. The purpose is to summon the pack, and that includes you. They want the flood light, and they want the backup of the human with a gun. Dogs aren't stupid at all and they don't see a bit of difference between the humans and the canines that comprise their family unit or pack.

Last night about five thirty I got the final stage barking.  When you hear that, you know they aren't just letting go at a raccoon or something harmless.  I got my flood and my AK-47 and went out on the porch.  Sure enough, even over the racket they were making, I could hear something coming up the slope from the creek. The forest floor is covered with limbs and twigs now, and you just can't walk through it without making noise. Whatever was out there, was big enough to be cracking branches off dead trees while he walked. I figured it was perhaps a deer, but that would be unusual.  More likely it was a bear, because hogs usually travel in herds and this was a singleton.

Sure enough, across the meadow at the entrance to the vehicle trail, there emerged a giant black shadow. I got him in the beam of the flood, and it was the largest black bear I have ever seen here. He was injured, though I couldn't tell how badly.  The bear crossed the trail and started limping slowly up the slope. The dogs had no inclination to go after him,  they just wanted him gone.  I felt sorry for the old guy.  My guess would be poachers. They are a scourge up here, the same kind of trash that stages dog fights.  Poachers kill the black bears for their body parts, which they sell to people who resell them as medical cures and aphrodisiacs. Poachers normally haunt the national forest, because they run the risk of getting shot if they come on private land. Poachers are as dangerous as drug traffickers. The penalty for poaching is serious jail time, confiscation of vehicle, tools, and weapons.  It's a big, deep forest and these guys are not altruists. If you come on them you're as apt to wind up in a hole as a bear is.   I suspect that's what the bear ran into, and I hope he wasn't hurt badly.  In all the years I've lived here, I've never shot a bear though I've had problems with them frequently. Once they were so bad I built an electric fence around the meadow and the buildings, specifically to keep them and the hogs out. It didn't work, but it was worth a shot.


Other times I have had to get the forest service to come and trap them ( in a catch 'em alive trap), and haul them off to another state. I had a sow and two cubs who were tearing my place up, and when I fired over their heads they just ignored me. They got carried up to a state north of here and I hope they are still living happily. 

I wouldn't trade my dogs for anything.  They are the best security system there is.  I never  bought a dog or went to the pound to get one. They always just show up here and settle down. I have plenty of room, and I've been lucky in that none of the dogs who came to live here killed chickens or cats.  They have just been good friends and a valuable asset.

20 comments:

  1. I had to clean up a bag of trash in my back yard this week left by a bear. They are foraging hard this time of year and not many neighbors want to secure their garbage cans with all those attractive food scraps that draw the bears in.

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  2. I keep my trash in cans, inside a "bear proof" walled enclosure. Momma bear and the cubs just peeled the boards off the wall and helped themselves. I found them by following the trail of trash into the woods. After that, I put 2 X 6 boards across the wall of the enclosure with screws and between that and the dogs I haven't had that problem. The thing about bears is you can just walk around a corner and there one will be. My daughter did that as a little girl and that launched the great electric fence around the whole perimeter project. The bears would hit the fence with their noses, instinctively give it a swipe, and ripe out 20 feet of insulators and wire. It was a bust.

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  3. We have had poachers here too. It makes me so mad.

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  4. There are some real low lifes in the country, just as anywhere else. What makes me mad is lots of people know who they are, and despise them. But they still won't turn them in because it's their third cousin twice removed on their mothers side. That's just how it is.

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  5. 6 bears were across the street the other night, last night it was a raccoon. I couldn't believe there were so many bears together, but as Matt said, it's foraging time. I love driving down the street on trash morning, it's like trash can bowling for those who set the trash out the night before.
    In the forests, the last thing I worry about are wild animals, even the bobcats and mountain lions just want to be left alone. The 2 legged cultivators and poachers are the ones I'm wary of.

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    1. Bears tend to congregate where the pickings are good. When they are hungry, they'll go right down into towns. I look out for cultivators, dealers, and poachers. At the same time, given my inability to run away because of my leg, I keep a weather eye out for hogs and bears. I agree people are far more dangerous than animals.

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  6. Ya know to be honest I am not real sure I would turn a poacher in at all if he or she limited themselves to bear killin. Then again I am biased. We don't have them here yet but they are not far off and expanding rapidly there have been a few sightings but I am quite happy they are not here. First time I see they have hit one of my bee hives I might very well become a poacher myself. I have seen the damage they can do to bee hives and as you said Harry the fencing doesn't work on them either.

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    1. I know for a bee keeper, bears are bad news. But the poachers are professional, commercial criminals. They thrive on intimidation. They are really bad people. The bears just want to eat. I hope none of them start tearing up your hives, though.

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  7. There are some bear down in south Texas and a few sightings far east of here but none in my area. Coyotes & bobcats like fleas though.

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    1. We have coyotes and bobcats. I lose a chicken or two now and then and those are the primary suspects, but I have chickens to spare.

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  8. Harry - we have black bears here on the island but because the island is not very populated and there is still a lot of virgin territory - the bears tend to stay in the virgin territory. they don't like people and they aren't used to people so they don't come to people's properties and look for food - they stick to the mountains and the forest. your dogs are beautiful, especially the one with the cat using him as a scratch-post - that is so cute! i want to get jambaloney a black lab but first i wanted to get our 2 cats acclimatized here. and then last year we got a little stray kitten show up and he is now fully acclimatized here, and with the other 2 cats and they with him. i am thinking of getting jam and the cats a little puppy. we really don't need the protection as our neighbours on both sides have 2 dogs each...and our one huge cat thinks he's a dog and he's teaching the kitten to be a dog, too.

    this area is known for raccoons and bobcats but we haven't seen hide nor hair of either since moving here. i think it's because of all of the dogs and cats in the near vicinity. i am glad that you have such good dogs. and i am glad that you took in those strays who are protecting your property and your family.

    all the best. your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Strays make good watch dogs. I guess they appreciate having a home.

      Raccoons and possums come up on my porch sometimes in winter and eat the cat food. It's not nearly as easy going when a bear does that, as has happened here in the past. Fortunately the bears usually just stay out in the meadow or around the tree line since I built my trash safe.

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  9. Harry,
    I had a dog whose bark told me exactly when to be alarmed and when to just keep sleeping or going about my day. Puppy had about six barks. One day, I came home and she was sleeping as the mailman took mail to the porch. She awoke as I drove in the driveway, she jumped up, growling and snarling. She came to me, knowing I had caught her sleeping. Another time, I was home with the two-year-old who was looking out the window. About the time the baby screamed and ran from the window, the dog was growling and snapping at someone, following someone around the house. It was the worst noise she had ever made, and whatever she was chasing was moving quickly. As I ran through the house and looked out, there was the meter man with a knit hat, the kind that covers the face with eye and mouth holes, all three outlined with colorful trim. The baby and dog were terrified. But, both my child and dog had used good judgment because he did look fearsome. Puppy was a good dog who never just barked like neighbor dogs. I knew if she were talking to a dog, someone was coming down the street, if a person had stepped in our yard, if she just wanted to make the person go away, if it was a squirrel she spotted or if someone was coming near the house and where that person was in the yard. She was the best dog ever. Thankfully there are no bears anywhere near here. I would never leave the house. Or, I would only leave armed.

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    1. You can't do without a good dog. Little dogs in a house can be good watch dogs, and give you time and warning.

      It's just good sense to keep something to hand to protect yourself in the woods. If there's a problem you aren't going to have time to run back to the house and get it then. So you have to keep what you need about you.

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  10. Interesting, Dogs are a great security system for sure. We got our first dog (as a family, both had em as kids) about a year ago. Big hairy mutt. He's old and very lazy, also quite gentle with my son who shamelessly torments him. He sleeps a lot and I regularly trip over him, waking him up in the hallway. Alert he is not.

    That being said he is a big dog and he barks at stuff. Not usually anything in particular most of the time, just being a dog. Though since we've settled into a clearly defined space here he is becoming more territorial which is a good thing.

    In order of importance burglars seem to be worried about getting killed by home owners, eaten by dogs and caught by the police. The way I figure it people do not know Dog is a 10 (or 11-13 vet wasn't sure) year old who can't reliably catch little lizards sunning on the patio instead of an angry Cujo reincarnate.

    Aside from being enjoyable Dog is a big factor in a potential criminals cost to benefit analysis. I don't have to present an impenetrable target, just sufficient to convince them the house 4 blocks over without a big dog is a better option.

    Glad you and the dogs came out OK.

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    1. You are exactly right. Unless they are after you personally, Goblins will pass you by if your place looks like a tough nut to crack, or if there are obvious security precautions like a big dog or two. There are plenty of people who leave the door open and are unarmed. They're a lot better bet for a safe and lucrative robbery.

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  11. You might have done the 'ole boy a favor by putting him down. The bear will probably die a long agonizing death. Then tan the hide and place in front of the fireplace. Poaching, in some circles, is considered a high art and a way to thumb your nose at those that rule. Not that I condone it, after all, my father put 'em behind bars for years. He never did catch me....

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    1. It's one thing to poach a deer if you need the meat, I guess. But the people I'm talking about are just plain evil. They do things you'd never give a thought to. They also engage in intimidation so people are afraid to report them.

      I don't know how badly this bear was hurt, he was all the way across the meadow. I know he was injured, I just hope he can recover.

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  12. We don't have many bears around here, I have seen a little black bear a couple times over the years they just didn't come to close to the house. During dear season we had a cow shot because of spot lighting) guess they thought the cow was a deer)......

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    1. People come up from the city and shoot cows, dogs, horses and other people. I would think it would be common sense not to fire at movement, and to identify your target before you fire. It doesn't seem like rocket science. But there are plenty of people who cut loose at just about anything. Sorry about the cow, that would be aggravating beyond words.

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