The 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.
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.
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.