Friday morning I opened the back door and fell off the edge of now, landing in an equally foggy July morning a couple decades ago. It was a year that was colder than usual, a lot like this one.
In the backyard I found the rabbit hutch tipped over and rolled around in an attempt to get at its contents. A pair of terrified rabbits huddled, shaking, as far from the edges as they could get. There wasn’t a single bit of rabbit chow in the area. It wasn’t much, but in a year like this one, it was enough to attract a bear.
It is absolutely true that “a fed bear is a dead bear,” and it’s our responsibility to protect them from themselves.
Because of the cool weather, the wild berry crop is coming on slowly. Bears are unusually hungry and desperate, so they’re looking for food in places they’d never ordinarily go. It’s sad, but the worst thing we can do is feed them.
Be sure your compost is covered with dirt, since it probably contains the bear equivalent of dark chocolate, goodies like half-chewed corn cobs and watermelon rinds.
If you feed domestic animals outside, take food bowls in before dark.
If you feed birds, put out about half the feed you would during the winter. The birds can begin getting seeds in the wild, and you don’t want leftover feed at the end of the day. Feed livestock no more than they can consume before dark.
If you’re camping, put food in a bear-proof container or hang it high in a tree by putting the food in a bucket, tossing a rope over a high limb, tying it to the bucket and pulling it up at least 10 feet. If picnicking, be sure to properly dispose of leftovers.
Do leave water out, in everything from birdbaths to ground containers. Everything needs water, and water alone will not attract bears.
Bears aren’t common at Gopher Gulch, but since it’s become the path between woods and pasture, they’re moving through along with foxes, raccoons, skunks and the rare coyote.
Chase them, making lots of noise, if it’s safe to do so. Recently I chose not to chase a bear in the front yard. It was in a corner, and the only way out would have been over me. There was nothing for him to eat, so he sat down, scratched an ear, sniffed the gate and moved along.
Perhaps he was responsible for my sudden slide back down the space/time continuum. There were no terrified rabbits, but the tarp and remnants of the pump house were scattered all over the back yard. Good thing Ron and I are already designing new protection for the pump.
Maybe the mess was so that I’d remember that bears are big, unpredictable omnivores. Once they associate humans with food, they will almost inevitably be destroyed. Feeding bears isn’t a kindness. It’s a death sentence.