Close Encounters of the Ursus Kind

The first time I saw a black bear in the wild was a few years ago, around this time of year, in Cook Forest State Park. My husband got me out of the house and on a picnic after I had foot surgery and was going crazy not being able to shower.


We were driving past the picnic pavilions when we saw her sitting in the middle of the road. Startled, she lumbered to the edge of the road, all the time looking behind her. That’s when three cubs emerged from the ravine and ran across the road. Their paws were almost as big as their bodies and their long black nails were visible from where we sat, stunned in our car. The cubs scooted effortlessly up a tree after their mother sent out some kind of bear code for “stranger danger,” and we drove past them slowly, grateful for the moment and for the bragging rights of seeing bears in the wild.


And in the wild is where I wish our last two bear encounters were.


A few weeks ago, a bear found the sunflower seed feeder just off our back deck. At least we’re pretty sure it was a bear. What else besides Superman could twist our 4-foot wire fence and bend a ¾-inch steel pole nearly to the ground? I found the feeder 20 feet away in our neighbor’s yard with a perch broken off, but all the sunflower seeds in tact. My guess is he was pretty ticked he couldn’t get it opened, gave up, and vowed to return for some other foodstuff in our yard because he returned last Monday with an agenda.


This time he went for the the bird feeder in the front yard, the one my dad made a few years ago with the cardinal on the top. Dad had mounted it to a 1-inch piece of rebar and cemented it into the ground. That puppy wasn’t going anywhere. Well, until the day the bear came and bent it to the ground.  005


Makes me wonder what’s in that bird seed. He licked the entire feeder clean, leaving nary a nut on the ground. When we discovered the destruction the next morning, birds and squirrels were looking at it like, “What the …? We were just eating from this six feet in the air yesterday.”


I’ve seen hawks and falcons in our yard, and we had skunks in the neighborhood last year and the year before. Not sure bears are a welcome addition. I’m not running a wildlife refuge here.


I’m not sure if I’ll put the bird feeder back up. Maybe I can find some bear-proof bird seed, although bears eat pretty much anything, don’t they? I just want to know I can come home at night and not be greeted by a big old black bear dining in my front yard. It’s a fun one-time event to brag on, but in the future, give me a raccoon or possum any day.

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One thought on “Close Encounters of the Ursus Kind

  1. A couple of years ago my neighbor thought that teenagers had climbed through his dog door (he has a lab) and were stealing his beer (we’d been having problems with kids stealing things). So he heard a commotion in his garage at 1 am and through open the garage door and yelled at them. “Them” was a mama bear and her cubs. Once he got her out of the garage he blocked the dog door. The next day they got a door without a dog door cut into it. I’ve not seen the bear yet this year, but I have seen many many foxes. And yes, bears will eat anything…bar-b-que grills, trash, birdfeeders, garbage. That’s quite a bird feeder you’ve got there….

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