Loaded for Bear

By , July 18, 2014

The bear that raided the compost pile earlier this week returned the next morning (see Bear Busted). The Critter Gitter greeted him and announced his presence to the “homestead.” Michelle jumped out of bed and looked out the window when she heard the shrieking alarm. It took her two seconds to look out at the compost pile, but in that time, the bear had disappeared. The upended lid still bounced from his passing, but he was gone.

On the downside, we’re resigned to near heart attacks every time we cross the beams of these Critter Gitters. On the upside, they’re making the birds sing.

No kidding! The Critter Gitter cycles through a series of shrill alarm sounds. Some of those include tones that match the hermit thrush’s song. If those particular alarms go off (and we usually get at least two per pass—one on the way there, the other on the way back) the hermit thrushes in the area burst into song, competing with this new challenger to their territories. It’s rather precious . . . .

Despite the Critter Gitters, we see evidence that the bear continues to patrol our neighborhood. Neighbors report visits to their compost bins, and they agree with my guess that it’s a black bear.

Aly found a line of new deposits on the trail above the house a few days ago. It looked like someone spread spoonsful of pesto on the path. The next day, I found a line of deposits along our trail to the north beach on our property. Moving from the beach to the forest it showed a clear progression from solid turd to more pesto patties. I imagine the bear grazed on beach grass until he got the runs.

We’re on heightened alert for now, and going about armed. Michelle and Aly carry bear spray on the trail. We worried that our canisters, purchased 22 years ago when we returned to Alaska, but a friend in Canada told me that he’d recently tested a past-pull date canister and found it plenty potent. His was only a few years old, so we should test ours as well.

I finally have an excuse to indulge my current favorite affectation: a big old K-Bar trench knife. I’ve been running around most of the summer with it strapped to my hip, but I have to admit, while it has some utility out here, it’s largely unnecessary. As I told one friend, I figure it’s 5% utility, 95% futility. Now, with a hungry black bear hanging around, that percentage may shift. The generally accepted defense against a black bear is to “fight back vigorously.” In such an eventuality, the blade of the knife may not prove as useful as its hammer faced pommel. A few solid raps on the skull might deter a small bear without the legal hassle of killing it out of season.

Likely, we’ll ease these precautions before long. Wild animals share these woods with us constantly, and largely go unseen. I doubt we’ll ever catch a glimpse of this particular bear. Compost will be its downfall. With noisemakers on the bins and my ongoing harvest of the local beach grass for biofilter (see Biofilter Snob) providing competition for that food source, he’ll likely move on soon.

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