Alaska-connected folk singer, Katie Henry, recorded a funny song called Bears in the City that was pretty popular in Juneau. I thought of it the other day when we hiked out of our semi-remote homestead, a mile and a half across the ridge and bay, then drove 7 miles to the nearest town. While there, we visited friends, who live on the edge of Haines. They told us they’d been hearing bears in their yard. We also discussed their compost pile, and their concern that it might run afoul of a newly-enforced local law against bear attractants in town.
This struck me as very strange. After almost 5 years on the homestead, we have yet to see a bear here. We know they’re around, but not often. We had a brown bear visit our garden and paw disinterestedly through our compost pile for a moment, before leaving a big, steaming pile on the trail to our guesthouse. We see similar piles on the trails and in the woods every great once in a while. Once we found black bear tracks in the swamp. That’s it.
Meanwhile, our town neighbors worry about the safety of their cat.
Bears are smart, and I think they learned long ago to avoid this homestead. The previous owners, who built the place before the neighborhood developed on Mud Bay, had more than their share of bear encounters. They shared some pretty interesting stories, like the time one smelled dinner cooking through the tarped-off window frame of the add-on bedroom, then in the middle of construction. The lady of the house shot it as it climbed through. Another group of bears used to come around when the family was away, and break their windows. They’d always hear the family returning, and slip away. Finally, the man of the house beat the kids home, carrying a rifle. No broken windows after that.
Now, I imagine the neighborhood is just right: too populated for a bears to be comfortable, but not so populated that bears would be attracted by food and garbage. Better pickings in the city, I guess . . . .