The bears in our area are fattening up for their long winter's nap, and there are lots of fruit and nut trees around to help them accomplish their goal. Unfortunately, many of those fruit and nut trees are right on my property, my neighbours' properties, and the vacant fields across the road.
This morning, just as dawn was beginning to show, Charley started making whining sounds near the back door. This is unusual for Charley, who seldom whines and who is usually the last dog up in the morning.
I noticed the motion-detector light on the back porch was on. Looking out my window, I caught the back end of a bear clambering over the fence not THREE FEET from my door - fortunately heading OUT of my yard, not into it. The bear was mid-sized, likely one of last year's cubs, old enough to spend time without mama but young enough not to be chased out of mama's territory until next spring.
I looked out another window to follow his progress (of course, by this time all the dogs were awake, hovering around the back door, bristling in anticipation of "something's out there!" at the same time that they needed to go out for their morning pee!).
He was joining his siblings, who had probably preceeded him just moments early - and all three of them sat down for a tasty breakfast of crabapples under the neighbour's tree less than fifty feet from my door.
Dilemma: dogs NEED out, three hungry bears with great fence climbing ability just feet away. What to do, what to do, what to do?
And then I flashed back to a time when I was about eight, tenting with my parents. A bear had wandered into our campsite. My mom picked up two saucepan lids and banged them together with all her might....and off ran the bear.
Normally, I let wild animals be - they have a right to be here too, and it is we humans who have encroached on their territory. But I knew there were plum trees and apples trees in the empty fields across the road so I wasn't about to deprive them of their only food source. I grabbed two lids, slipped out the back door, and with all the energy I could muster at 6:30 in the morning, banged away as loudly as I could and shouted at them to move.
And move they did! Fortunately, they moved away from me. Over the neighbour's crossfencing and right smack into his pond!! Now that did make me laugh, but bears can swim and have warm coats so they were in no danger. They raced across that pond, across the field, over the fence, across the road, across the next fence.....and then stood there watching me for a while before finally sauntering along the fence line in search of another tree.
Suddenly Martin, who was down by the creek in my pasture, sounded his alarm and I turned in time to see him doing a complicated dance with two more bears! I called to him, but he was in panic mode. They were not attacking him, but likely either checking for fish (I get the occasional trout swim through the creek) or having a drink. Martin, however, just sensed danger and didn't know which way to turn.
Knowing bears are more scared of me than I am of them, I raced into the pasture with pot lids banging loudly, scaring the bears away. Poor Martin was still unsure which way to move - to run after the bears up the pasture, or toward his frenzied, noisy, scary mama? Fortunately, he chose to run toward me the moment I stopped banging the lids. His nhah, nhah, nhah sounds, roughly translated into "I'm so glad you're here, mama, I was scared!" made my morning. It is the closest he has ever come to nuzzling me.
This is the third day in a row the bears have been hanging out here. Yesterday, they all but destroyed a neighbour's plum tree; the day before that, one was hanging out on the panhandle drive adjacent to my pasture - possibly getting apples from the lone apple tree along that fenceline. As long as there is plenty of fruit available, I doubt they will attempt to do harm to the piggies, but it is a worry. And lone coyote is getting far too brazen also - he no longer runs from me and is coming within a few feet of the pasture gate by the barn. And the pack of five coyotes wanders through the pasture almost daily now.
Living harmoniously with nature, respecting biological diversity, treating each sentient being with respect and dignity.....these are challenges for the human species. With winter still a couple of months away, I think I may be severely challenged for a little while yet.