We are so fortunate – we get lots of visits from bears…. Mama Bears with their Cubs. Wise old Bears and youngsters on their own for the first time – they are all fascinating. It always feels like a gift – a privilege – when we have a ‘moment’ with wildlife. We get visits from deer, wild turkey, racoons, and yes.. the less appreciated but quite essential snakes, moles, and hornets. While we enjoy seeing all of the wildlife … it is the Bears that are most special – and who most easily captivate our attention.
We try to never forget they were here first – we moved into their back yard. We have educated ourselves to their ways and we try to be good neighbors. We are careful to remove our bird feeders when the black bears awake from their winter sleep. They don’t know the food is for the birds. And if they get lucky at one bird feeder or one carelessly placed dog dish – they will be back – looking for another handout.
Not everyone who ‘moves in on the territory’ of wildlife …. like the bears…. comes with the same attitude, the same desire to ‘be a good neighbor’. They don’t bother to learn about the environment or the habits and ways of the wildlife. They bring their own personal values and habits here and they expect the environment to adapt to their way of living. They just don’t seem to understand that the bird feeder and the garbage in the flimsy can are an ‘invitation to lunch’. They get annoyed when the bear ‘trespasses’ on their property. The bear has no idea about property ownership or manifest destiny mentality. The bear is just ‘looking for something to eat’.
And then there are folks who do absolutely absurd things when they visit or move to natural settings. Some of them actually put out food for the bears – so they can get a picture or a video for show and tell with their friends and family back in the ‘big city’. Here’s a real life … real sad… example of what happens when people behave without thinking about the consequences of their actions.
Big Mama – that’s what the locals called her. We had watched over several springs as she would introduce her new cubs to the splendor that surrounded their birth place. She was a wonderful Mom – taught them to run at the sound of a vehicle – “quick.. go climb the nearest tree until everything is safe for you again”. She taught them the best places to find berries, grubs, roots, nuts, and even where the bees buried their honey stash in the side of the hill. This was her ‘territory’ and she thrived and raised healthy babies….. no one ever had an issue with her coming close to our homes….. until……
Until he moved to the mountain. He wanted a better view .. so he cut down trees with abandon. He didn’t use them for firewood and didn’t seem to grasp the idea that when the rains came.. the trees kept the earth from eroding and washing down the sides of the mountain. Didn’t matter… he wanted a better view. When he wanted to ‘see a bear up close and get some good pictures’ he spread out a feast of corn and watermelon. That’s Big Mama sitting there in that ‘bait corn’.. behind her are some of the trees that were sacrificed for his ‘view’. Big Mama learned she could get an easy meal there. Big Mama learned to associate houses and people with food. See those tags on Big Mama’s ears? When a Bear gets too familar with houses and people, they lose their fear of us. They will tear screen to get to the dog food on the deck…. they will scare people … because…. they are bears. Big Mama had 2 tags at the time this picture was taken… Not long after… she got her 3rd strike when taking down a bird feeder not far from this ‘feeding zone’. Three strikes… you’re out. We miss Big Mama…. Not long after that – the man moved away. We do NOT miss the man who cut down all the trees and in our opinion – was responsible for the death of Big Mama.