Friday, 19 September 2008

A wildlife calling card

Many years ago, on our very first trip to Banff, I barely dared to leave main street for fear of running into a bear.
If someone had told me back then that I would comfortably live with bears in the backyard I would never have believed it.

I am still chicken about going into the mountains to pick berries or mushrooms, unless there is a small group. Every dark tree stump looks bear-shaped. This is totally irrational, since my chance of running into one is just as great right here at home, especially at this time of year.
The apples are almost ripe. Judging by the appearance of this "calling card", as the old timers so delicately put it, the bears are not waiting around for perfection. This one is right by the side of the driveway. Piles like this get put on the compost heap. Just so I can smile smugly and say: "The secret to a good garden is bear manure".
There have been quite a few bears in neighbourhoods at the edge of the village too. They have become like the kids at Halloween: don't waste your time on the outlying districts, go where the goodies, in this case fruit trees, are most dense!
We usually just see the evidence. Knocked-over garbage containers, not that we leave anything remotely edible in the garbage. A garbage can lid with teethmarks in it. Apples gone from a volunteer apple tree, and so on. Occasionally we see one for real. They are awesome to watch.
They have this wonderful fluid bouncing way of walking. Yes, I do shake in my boots when I meet one away from a car. The funny thing is that I feel quite safe here on my own acreage. Almost as if the land itself is protecting me.
Once we had a young bear, probably in his first year on his own, systematically decimating the chickens. He'd eat one or two a day. We finally had him trapped and removed.
That was a few years ago, the provincial budget for wildlife management has been gutted since then, all in the name of fundamentalist capitalism. But that is another topic.
But before he was trapped, I noticed him climbing into the chicken run while I was working in the vegetable garden. Filled with righteous indignation and with manure fork in hand I actually
ran out there screaming and frightened him away! Once he was gone I started shaking.
At least a bear will actually eat a chicken before killing another one. Domestic dogs will just go nuts and kill and/or wound the whole flock. They are worse than any wildlife.
Human/bear encounters seem to be increasing, and old remedies to keep them away don't work so well anymore. One of my old timer friends explained it like this: "In the old days, only prospectors and hunters went into the mountains. They carried GUNS. These days everybody and his brother is going to the wilderness for recreation. They carry LUNCH. Animals are not stupid."

A private note to my sister, who stays in the motor home when she comes to visit from Holland.
Marg, de drol ligt op de voorgrond van deze foto. Hoe vind je dat, precies op de weg naar huis! Kan je mooi op het werk laten zien. Wie durft er tegen de beer?

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