Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Invisible All Around Us

For the last two years, ice storms have kept turnout low for bear hunting season around here. As a result, we have more than the usual number of black bears in the neighborhood. A mother bear with three cubs was seen crossing the state highway from the wildlife preserve into our North Orchard in broad daylight this Monday. She is accused of demolishing my neighbor’s beeyard about a mile south of here, although another bear was caught inside the fence, having squeezed herself under three strands of electric barbed wire to do in a few hundred thousand more pollinators. We got to see this second personage, a yearling female—or at least we saw her unrepentant snout—when she was captured in a live bear trap that looks like a cross between a culvert pipe and one of those pull-behind pork barbecue smokers. The photo above shows an example of such posted online by China Creek Internet Service in British Columbia.

I didn’t see the bear family as they crossed our hill (and I hope my dogs never do either), but I found some scat on the single-track trail I mow with the push mower through the every-day-taller goldenrod and grasses of the orchard. The aforementioned dogs were pretty definite about which way the bears went after relieving themselves (straight for the barnyard, but I am not worried, because bears are about the only thing around here besides me that doesn’t eat chickens).

If I hadn’t heard from the postmaster at the Dimock four corners that somebody saw the bears crossing the road, I would not have checked the trail for scat. And I never would have known those bears were out there, at lunchtime, while I worked in my office and the kids played in the woods. One thing you learn when you live here in the winter is that the snow is full of animals who live all around you and you never see them. They are in the business of your not seeing them. And if you can hide several hundred pounds of moving black bear on a sunny hillside, who knows what else there is in this world? Pretty much everything, I guess.

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