Black Bear! What Do We Do?!

Curious JedThe house rattled and creaked as the wind pushed and pulled, searching for a way in beyond the logs. Crisp brown leaves whizzed past the windows, illuminated only by the lamplight inside. The feeder swayed back and forth from it’s hook, metal grinding on metal. The cedar trellis whipped from side to side. From under my my chocolate knit afghan, as I sat with the dogs basking in the warmth of the fire, I lazily thought, I need to tighten those trellis screws.

In the flurry of all that commotion, something caught Jed’s attention. The curious cat ascended the couch, planted his face in the window and stared into the darkness. Then he started to pace.

Squirrel? I thought. We hear them trotting across the roof some nights. They use the trellis to reach the closest feeder with solid footing. I welcomed the thought.

Cat watches Feeder Squirrel

Just two days prior, on Thanksgiving, we loaded our five Droll Yankee Executive Feeders (affiliate link) with black oil sunflower seeds. I was eager to give thanks to the surrounding wildlife for their magical presence all year. And they were eager to partake.

It had been unseasonably warm, but for the two  late October snow storms responsible for dropping all the apples. Food was scarce. I heard on the radio that, with bears now in hibernation, it was the perfect time to fill the feeders again.

Watching Jed, I grabbed the video camera hoping for a cute cat/squirrel moment as they passed in the night. I aimed the lens at the window and started to record.

That’s when I saw it, the giant bear paw with 2 inch claws wrapping around the trellis a breath away from my cat’s head. Jed watched with mild curiosity as the bear’s face entered the soft cast of living room light. The camera, still running, had already dropped to my side. My mouth formed a silent “Oh!” as I drew in a long, slow breath that hitched in my lungs.

Lumbering into the darkness, the bear found another feeder in the maple trees just 20 feet from the house. He stumbled on the rock wall and send a boulder rolling down the hill. I moved slowly into the sun porch so as not to alert the dogs. I curled into the chair using the back to prop the camera and to hide myself from view.

The living room light was glancing off the feeder tube as the bear, invisible in the darkness, twisted it left and right. As I filmed reflections in the dark, hoping for a better view, Jackson, our other cat, caught sight of the bear too. He shot like a rocket into the basement studio where Tim was tinkering. I heard Tim’s footfalls coming up. Backing slowly into the dining room, I met him at the top of the stairs.

“Don’t move. There’s a bear out there.” I whispered.

Tim’s eyes widened. I saw him glance at the video camera.

I cursed an unfinished electrical job that scheduled our floodlights for rewiring the following day. “I wish we had more light.”

“We do!” he whispered back. We turned out the living room lamp and he flipped the outside switch. One floodlight had been left intact – right where we needed it.

Ben the Bear

If you could hear what the camera picked up, we sounded like a couple of squawking (and swearing) chickens, albeit quiet chikens.

“What should we do?” Tim asked.

“Not a f@#%king thing.”

It was one of those experiences that exhilarates, amazes and terrifies. We watched in awe as the bear moved with both strength and grace. He looked small as he passed under our window – until he stood up to a full 5 feet, at least. My final words on the subject, as the adrenaline thinned in my veins: “That was awesome, but I’m good if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.”

After the bear’s 20 minute snack attack, Tim went out with a flashlight and took the feeders into the house. The following day, I emptied them and stored them back in the shed. Hiking up through the woods, I found the only missing feeder about 100 yards away – emptied, the bottom tray cracked off, and bear slobber still inside the rim.

People laugh when I say the bear was fairly gentle, but it’s true. He wasn’t trying to be destructive. It was quite the opposite. That the feeders survived are either a testament to that, or they’re just really solid feeders.

Tim reloaded the black oil sunflower seeds again yesterday. Having woken to 2 degree temperatures this morning with breath that turned to snow, I’m guessing we’re in the clear. One would hope in January. We’ll keep you posted.

Comments

  1. Living in an area that has black bears I know how you must have felt. My encounter was without a camera and didn’t include the safety (read semi) of the house. I was on the road that runs in front of our house and the bear was only a few yards away.

    I stopped and stood statue still until it decided I wasn’t a threat or dinner and went on its merry way. Talk about your blood turning to ice. That was too close for me. Unfortuantly his/her trac runs from the local campground to their den somewhere behind our property and when the dogs go nuts but won’t go out we know that bear is making its spring/summer or autumn/winter journey to/from the campground area.

    Glad it was more interested in the sunflowers than you.

    • I can’t even imagine being that close without some barrier between me and a bear. While my window didn’t make me feel very safe and my synapses were on fire, I’d probably lose my bladder if I were in your shoes!

  2. Wow – what a story! Definitely a once in a lifetime event. 🙂

    • AJ, We’ve had other encounters here as well. I had a bear face in my office window two years ago as she ripped the lid off a can of seed, I just didn’t have the camera. My husband also drove over a small rise near our house and a mother was crossing the road with her two cubs. And another bear got into my neighbor’s cooler, chomped holes in 12 cans to shotgun each beer, and passed out at the edge of their yard in a big old drunk heap. Nobody left the house for 8 hours while he slept it off.

      I love to see them, but I’m happier at a distance. 🙂

  3. OMG Kim! I would be freaking out and watching in awe at the same time. When I saw the bear so close to your window I freaked out. That is so close!

    Holy cow!

  4. Check out Lily the Black Bear on Facebook or http://www.nabc.com for lots of educational information about black bears!

  5. Holy Woof! I live in *fear* of the day we run into a bear at our lake house. You are so brave! Your kitty is *especially* brave. I would have been shaking in my slippers.

  6. Hey Kim – Julie meant to give you the link to the North American Bear Center. Here is the actual link. I couldn’t remember it either at first. http://www.bear.org/website/

    Jewel – one of their black bears is actually in labor (has been for 32 hours already) and lots of people are watching to see the cub being norn.

  7. OMD, I wish I had one as a playmate over here 🙂

    -Brandon

  8. What an amazing experience! Though I am mortally afraid of bears, they are also my second favourite animal. If I could come back as an animal in another life, it would definitely be as a bearm hands down.

    Since you were watching from the saftey of your house, I am kind of jealous you got to see one so close. Peering at them at the zoo just isn’t the same.

    Thanks for sharing the video! I definitely would have done the same thing.

    • It’s quite a conundrum when fears and favorites collide – and it sounds like the making of a new survivor series. The funny thing is that I get it, especially while I was standing there shaking in my shoes and loving the whole experience at the same time.

      And yeah. This was WAY better than a zoo. I hate to see animals in captivity – even my own birds. But didn’t this guy look a little like a circus bear they way he sat up begging for the seeds to just fall in his face? That was just too precious.

  9. Amy@GoPetFriendly says:

    Those Yankee feeders must be really tough, because I had a bear take one down too! When I picked up the pieces, the plastic tube had dents from her teeth, but she didn’t break it. I put it all back together and it worked just fine. Great video!

    • Really? I swear by Droll Yankee. Our first feeder has been around for 20 years and, after going through about 7 or 8 different brands that lasted just a few months, I found that Droll Yankee still exists – so we bought 5 more. The design is absolutely the same (although I went bigger), and the only thing they changed was making sure the tube doesn’t yellow, which is a total plus.

      Glad to hear they served you well too! (And I wish they knew how much I’m promoting them here. I could use a job!)

  10. Great video! We have sighting of black bears in our County (Union, NJ) but so far not by us.

    • Hey neighbor! (Kind of, anyway. I used to live in Cranford, NJ.) I had no idea there were bear sightings in the vicinity, at least back when I lived there. Not surprising though. In places as populated as NJ, we keep edging them out of their territory so they come to ours. In my case, I live in their territory and have absolute respect for that.

  11. WOW!! I can’t believe the dogs didn’t hear anything 🙂 I love bears, but they are scary too! We used to mountain bike in the early spring and always worried about running into mama and baby bears! I love the fact that the bear was nice enough to move to the well lit area so we could get a good view 🙂

    • Julie, the wind was howling so hard and things were rattling every which way, even I didn’t think anything of the feeder swinging into the side of the house. I’m not surprised the dogs slept through at all. At eleven o’clock, they are dead to the world.

      Be careful bike riding! Spring isn’t too far away! And this guy? He was a baby not too long ago. His mom would parade him and his brother (tagged by the DEC so we could tell them apart) down past my neighbors house. I never saw them then, and I’m glad. LOL.

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