Bear with Me
One of our neighbors is becoming annoying. No, not in a playing his music too loud or letting his dog poo in our yard sense. He (or she?) is rattling our empty garbage cans at night and getting into things in the open bed of a pick up truck.
Yes, our formerly polite black bear is acting like, well, a bear.
When we first moved to this little coastal town in south central Alaska, we knew there were more bears than moose around, completely opposite from our previous location. Both critters can be dangerous, especially when your dopey dog runs up to full grown mama moose and barks in her bulbous nose. Not smart, dog, not smart at all. Both are given space and respect (as much as we can with said dopey dog, at any rate).
We quickly learned there was a neighborhood bear, but never saw much of the bruin. He (we'll stick with the patriarchal pronoun for now) left piles of berry-seeded poo along the narrow strip of grass that separates our house from a swath of brush and the slope down to a creek. While picking salmon berries (no, they don't taste like fish), my husband saw his brown nose peek out from some bushes. A stern, "Go away, bear" was enough to scare him off. Our cat was never chased. Our garbage cans were never so much as turned over, let alone debris strewn across the yard.
But things have changed.
Two weeks ago, I was settling down for the night when I heard thumping outside--the telltale sound of a plastic garbage can being abused. Shoot. I knew it wasn't a neighbor's dog. Taking up the heavy flashlight from the kitchen counter, I went to the front door and flipped on the porch light. Grateful we, like most Alaskans, have an arctic entry (an area for coats and boots that separates the house proper from the outdoors), I was able to keep the dogs in while I poked my head out the outer door. I could hear the bear bumping into things, and since garbage had been collected that day I knew he wasn't making a huge mess. But due to the monster piles of wood dear husband had stacked for the winter soon to come, I couldn't see anything.
"Go away, bear," I said in my gruffest "dad" voice. The thumping stopped. "Go on, get out of here."
I listened and waited, the half-glass outer door between me and the bear and flashlight in hand (why I had it, I don't know. It's not like I was going to go out there. But its weight felt good in my hand.). After a few moments of no sound, I figured the bear moved away from the house, back up into the brush. Just as I was about to go back in, he lumbered from behind the tall stack of wood into the light. My heart stopped for a second or two then thudded hard in my chest.
"That is one big freakin' bear," my brain informed me. Yes, thank you for stating the obvious, brain.
Maybe 200 pounds, he strolled past the porch and glanced up at me behind the laughable protection of the half-glass door. My heavy duty, 2" diameter, foot long Mag-Lite suddenly seemed like a tube of tin foil. Not that I would have gotten close enough to hit him with it. Not intentionally, anyway. He kept walking and disappeared into the shadows.
The next morning, I warned the kids about our night visitor and made sure the coast was clear before letting the dogs out at night. All had been quiet for the past couple of weeks, except for the distinct whiff of musk the other evening that told us he was still making his rounds. But nothing destructive.
Until last night.
Hubby returned from a week of meetings and shopping in Anchorage at 1 am. He left the groceries and things he purchased in the back of the new, open bed pick up truck he'd transported back via ferry. (The truck is for the science center where he works, the groceries are ours and a co-worker's.) He had some totes of freezer/refrigerator items, including coffee creamer, butter, cheese and meats, that he left outside rather than put away after a long day. It was cool enough to keep things fresh. Along with that, our pal Penny had purchased three dozen tamales from Taco Loco, a restaurant in Anchorage that she absolutely loves. Hubby transported them back with our stuff so we could store them for her, as Penny was staying in Anchorage for a few more days.
This morning, Hubby let the dogs out and discovered our bear had been back. Despite the presence of approximately 30 pounds of meat and other fat-rich goodies, the bear went for the enticing scent of tamales. And really, who can blame him? He pulled the tarp off the tote, chewed a couple of holes in the plastic, tossed the lid and went to work. Of the three dozen tamales, packaged in a tin foil covered pan, 21 survived. As long as Penny doesn't mind paw prints on her corn husks, they should still be fine.
Living with wildlife is never boring, but the past few weeks have seen a marked increase in the excitement level around here. In the scheme of things, the loss of a dozen tamales isn't bad (though Penny might not feel that way). We'll be temporarily free from our furry neighbor's antics once he goes into hibernation for the winter. For now, we'll keep the garbage shut in the shed until pick up day, especially if we have Mexican for dinner.