gardening with bear (and other late arrivals)

battered fenceI DIDN’T THINK ANYTHING COULD TOP SUMMER 2009’s appearance of the family of gray fox, or the Biblical-seeming abundance of serpents that were simply slithering everywhere here this year. But here on Animal Planet, you just never know who is going to walk in the gate–or who is going to walk through the fence, I guess I mean, as in straight through the middle of one section, tearing down the heavy mesh above it and crushing the whole thing in the process. Hello, bear.

Ten size-XL paw prints adorned the back porch; on the front welcome mat was deposited some apparently undesirable reject from the compost pile–not tasty enough, I guess.

bird pole
Feeding the birds? Not me, at least not right now. Project Feeder Watch, a bird-counting program with Cornell Lab of Ornithology that I look forward to each year (as you can read here), starts Saturday, but I think I’ll skip a week or two before I put out any more feeders. Extra-warm weather has at least one of the local bears on an extended feeding frenzy; the birds will have to be patient. After all, look what happened to the iron pole holding up the one feeder I had out the other night (above). The feeder that hung from it: toast. (Do you think a “lifetime warranty” covers bear damage?)

There have been cheerier late arrivals, like the last of my non-hardy “annuals” to bloom: the hot-red pineapple sage, Salvia elegans. Better late than never is apparently its motto, and this extra-tardy Salvia just got going, despite a number of frosts that you’d think would have made it do otherwise. Meet that fruity, last-minute creature, if you didn’t in the post a few days ago. As for meeting the bear, not sure when he/she is visiting again. Stay tuned.

  1. Cynthia A. says:

    As a beekeeper in New England bears are the bane of my existence. You’re right not to feed them bird seed. Bird feeders to bears are like a gumball machine that doesn’t require quarters is to a five-year-old. Irresistible.
    Soon the bears will hibernate and it will be safe to feed the birds again. Then the only challenge will be squirrels.

  2. Johanna says:

    Wow! That’s a problem we just don’t have here in SW Michigan. I can’t imagine how my dogs would react to a bear walking up to the house — but I think “not well” would be a good start! Is your deer fence of any use with bears (I guess the fence section on the ground kind of indicates it’s not!)?

    And one final question, do you think you could get a picture of it??!!

  3. Bee Balm Gal says:

    Oh, dear! My sincere condolences. Bears are NOT good neighbors. My poor sister in northern New Jersey moved into her sweet little house in the woods just so she could have all the bird feeders she wanted. After a short time, a bear found her free buffet. She, with the help of some handy friends, tried several ways to make the feeders bear-proof (hanging them from high-hanging sturdy cables, etc.) but to no avail. Finally, she gave up, realizing that she was just luring the bears into the neighborhood, making it less safe for area children and pets. I hope you have better luck and your visitor moves on. Have you considered a trip to the pound to adopt a large noisy dog?

  4. Gloria says:

    The feeder that hung from it: toast. (Do you think a “lifetime warranty” covers bear damage?)
    Not a chance! Bear removed 5 foot solid fencing, came up a tree, treated it self to all the feeders from an enclosed deck, no stairs… 10 feet high! Jumped down look a friend in the eye shook himself off and climbed the gravel steps through the garden path, turned around gave another look as to say thanks and went on his way! Feeders tucked away to the dead of winter after that fiasco that no warranty covered on any of the six feeders!
    My girls where barking, Bear did not blink and eye just went about his business; it was a most enjoyable site to see! A true beauty indeed! This week in the middle of city here in New York a pileated woodpecker decided to entertain for several hours in an old maple tree! Moving from 3 acres in the country to a small lot in the town, I fell blessed to be attracting nature to my gardens at the same time not inviting English Sparrows, pigeons and crows… that are so abundant in the town! Woodchucks… live next store and a deer visited in dead of winter and dined on a newly planted Witch Hazel that Stub did not survive the winter! Living in harmony with nature and loving it ! G

  5. Balsamfir says:

    Bears and dogs are a bad combination for the dog. Just don’t feed them and they’ll go away. If they continue to return, say, to the compost, you might see if the DEC will relocate the bear. Bears will come in window screens and so on if smelly compost bins or apple pies are just the other side, but generally they’re pretty shy and goofy. I’m sure the bear never intended to break your fence, but just couldn’t see it for the golden bowl of seed hanging there. You might wear a bell if gardening outside alone. Bears make a kind of soft sneezing humphing sound, which might let you know when they’re around. They also love apples, in addition to birdseed. I had a family with three cubs one year and I sat on my porch quietly and watched them for the month before they decided to prefer my neighbor’s trees to mine.

  6. Liisa says:

    I can’t say I would react well to a bear standing on my welcome mat!! What is it with the animals over there leaving you treasures at your doorstep?? :)

    1. Margaret says:

      @Liisa: Yes, I made sure to email Anna Thomas when I saw your very nice thumbs-up for her book; she is as nice as her recipes are good, isn’t she? :)

  7. ConeFlower says:

    Don’t know where you live in NY but it must be “out in the boonies”. At least I hope bears haven’t become so used to towns and cities that they do their morning walk there. Great story though.

  8. Deirdre says:

    You don’t have to be out in the boonies to have bear. A bear was sighted three blocks from me earlier this year. I live IN the city of Seattle. Bear and cougar are spotted here from time to time. Apparently they follow the train tracks into town.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Brian. Thank you for your kind words, and I am glad to be of help anytime. I will be here and see you soon again.

      @Laura: Don’t worry about Jackie Boy…he takes no nonsense from anybody. Before he came to me he lived in the woods on his own, and at nearly 16 pounds and faster than a panther (and able to climb trees up two stories or more in a flash) he is pretty tough. Plus, he has his own house with a special cat door the bear cannot fit through. :)

  9. Carmen says:

    Yikes!! One good thing…that you listed the link to the feeder watch program. I wanted to do this with the kids this year and I’m glad you reminded me! Thanks!

  10. Brenda says:

    Please be careful about leaving anything edible about, even next spring when the bears are waking up. Bears remember locations from one year to the next just like we remember our favorite restaurant!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Penelope. To learn more about the bear and its preferred habitat and life cycle, I’d read up from a source like the UMich Animal Diversity Web at this link. I would not, however, actively try to attract bear, no matter what species. Let them enjoy the nearby wild places and just enjoy them from the occasional distant sighting and from reading about them.

      Welcome, Brenda. You are so correct; It has been 10 years since a bear last visited me (before my fence was up, and also when I had a feeder up at what proved to be too early a time). The stretch of warmish weather continues this week and so does my no-feed status. See you soon again, and thanks.

  11. Linda From NC says:

    I consider myself lucky that I only have to deal with dear. I can’t imagine having to take on bears. I saws a news clip from Australia recently, and several kangaroo were jumping through someone’s beautiful garden, and I cringed. Can’t imagine dealing with them either!

  12. Fred from Loudonville, NY says:

    Margaret is that the fence that is in the front of your house, by the road??? Don’t you ALSO have the SHOCKING SYSTEM in front of the fence??? How scary! As long as you are OK, that is all that matters. Is there any way that you can have the voltage increased to keep intruders back??

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Carrie. Sounds like my kind of feeder company! I am going to research my feeder and theirs now. Thanks for the tip.

  13. Brian G. says:

    On the old Carol Burnett show they did a spoof of Jaws called ‘Jowls” in which Tim Conway’s character said of a victim “She’d have made it if she hadn’t been wearing her good luck ham.” I guess bird seed and composted banana skins are your ‘good luck ham”!

  14. Mary W says:

    My goodness, bears!! I guess I’ll have to stop complaining about the skunks and raccoons in my garden.They can dig holes to get to tasty grubs, but they can’t take down a fence.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Mary. So far, no more bear…fence intact again. The skunks and raccoons are pesky in their own way, that’s for sure; I empathize. I hope to see you here again soon.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Judy. Pretty crazy, isn’t it? I mean, they are B-I-G. Nice to see you and your bear, too. :) See you soon again.

  15. Theresa says:

    The first encounter in the pond was enough for me. But now that he/she is hanging out by the porch, I would be freaking out. I just love how you stay so calm with these things, Margaret. You never stop impressing me. :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.