Friday, October 11, 2013
A visit from Ursus Americanus
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.