While we were out of town this summer our house sitter texted:
“Can bears open garage doors?”
“We had a visitor last night.”
Apparently, a bear lifted the door open and helped itself to the trash.
That was July.
One night in September I woke up to the sound of our garage door being opened. Our room is directly above the garage. Adjacent to our room and also above the garage, is our office. Our windows were open that night, as we have no A/C. Drake barked ferociously out the office widow, busted out the screen and darn near jumped out and down onto the bear’s back. Luckily, Buddy was there and grabbed Drake’s leg, which deterred him enough for me to grab him by the collar. With no time to go through the house and close all the windows and no strength to wrestle my 90-pounds-of-solid-muscle dog into another room, I simply let him out into the yard, per his wish. As soon as the bear saw and heard Drake, he took off.
Typically, bears are shy and skittish. A simple shout out the window, dogs barking, lights turning on, will scare a bear off. My Man has even walked out into the fenced part of our yard and thrown things at a bear in the driveway before. It’s mostly just the Mama’s with cubs that will stand ground and attack.
Towards the end of September, the bear returned again. We are pretty sure it’s the same guy as his M.O. is opening the garage door.
Saturday afternoon, prior to a performance, I made 4 dozen Super Yummy Sandwiches for our cast party. The party was to be Sunday but these sandwiches are Super Yummy because you pour a butter based sauce over the top of them and let them soak in that overnight. There was no room in my house fridge for them and so I tucked them away into our beer fridge in the garage. When Man and I returned from the show Saturday night, it was to an open garage. Trash was all over the driveway and trailed up the hill. The refrigerator and freezer doors were swinging open. All of the Super Yummy Sandwiches were gone. The meat in the freezer (a ham, Italian sausage, steaks and ground beef) were gone.
I know that when a bear finds an easy score they will be back. My Man had to go out of town for business and so at Sunday’s party I asked some of the guys in the cast for their suggestions for when the bear returned. They helped fix the lock on the garage door. However, we have a two car garage and only one door was locked.
The party dissolved around 8. One of my friends had made plans to stay the night with me and so she was still here as well as another party goer. She was ready to leave as well but at about 8:30 or 9, the bear showed up. He simply went to the garage door that was unlocked, came in and dumped the can to go through the remains of our party. The ladies and I opened the office window and tried shouting at the bear. We blew whistles. I let my dogs out into the yard and they barked and growled but the bear did not care a rats fanny. He grabbed a bag of trash and moved about half way up the hill, popped a squat and had a picnic. Buddy and Bug were in bed but Bug heard the noise and joined us at the window making bear sounds.
Seeing that this guy was completely unafraid of people, I called the Division of Wildlife. I’ve never called before because there really is no place to relocate the bears and so they have to put them down. I think this is so sad because we’re living in their world. He’s just being a bear. The bears who have come and we’ve frightened away are not a problem. This guy though…he’s persistent.
There’s a story I’ve heard of a woman who would leave food out for a bear in her area. She would always feed him and he always knew she would. One day, she had the flu. She stayed in bed and did not leave food out for the bear. The bear arrived and there was no food. So he went into the house and killed her.
I didn’t want this bear to think that I was feeding him. I didn’t want him to polish off the food in the trash, find an empty fridge and then try to go in the house. I also needed him to leave so that my friend could go home too! As it was, we were not going to walk out to her car with this big ol’ bear out there.
While I spoke with them on the phone, the bear lumbered down the hill and back to our garage to grab a second bag of trash. My friends got a good look at him in the light and said he’s about the size of a Prius. That’s a car. A little car but still.
After some convincing, the DoW agreed to come out to the house. Of course the bear was gone by the time he arrived. The officer brought me 4 non-lethal shotgun slugs. These will not kill the bear but will give him a pretty good spank in the pants. They don’t reach farther than about 30 yards. He also said he’d return in the morning with a barrel armed with pepper spray. The barrel is staked into the ground and has rags soaked in anise oil. The licorice smell should entice the bear. When the bear pulls on the rags it triggers the pepper spray. The hope is that we make my home a difficult target instead of easy. No more drive through window service. He also told me, and I forgot, to put ammonia in my trash or chile pepper. The DoW officer checked my garage door. He said locking it won’t keep the bear out. He suggested bear proof trash cans. He explained what I already knew, that there is really no place to relocate them too. They’ve moved bears out, put trackers on them and with in about 5 hours, they are back where they had been moved from. Since relocation is ineffective we will try other deterrents in hopes of avoiding having to kill him.
Last night I had chorale rehearsal. The boys came with me since Daddy is out of town. On the way Bug asked about the barrel. I explained things to him and he did not like it!
“I don’t want you to hurt Crunchy!”
“That’s what I’ve named him because he just sits there making Crunching sounds.”
“Ah…I see. Well babe, he can’t keep coming into our garage and he’s bothered other neighbors too.”
We have friends about a mile from us who, we are pretty sure, are having encounters with the same bear. She and her husband have tried yelling at him and such as well and the bear doesn’t care. She’s text me when he’s at her house and then when he leaves it. I texted her when he got to my house and the timing seems right for it to be the same bear that was at her home.
“I heard that he ate their chickens!” Buddy said. “This bear is a menace to society!”
“No he’s not!” Bug defended him.
“He’s eating people’s chickens! Do you want him to eat ours?! Besides, he’s leaving feces all over our hill,” Buddy said.
“What’s feces?” Bug asked.
“Poop,” Buddy and I answered together.
The boys were worried that Crunchy would be there when we returned from chorale. I hoped he would show up while we were gone, get sprayed by the barrel and never return.
“Let’s go home and see if our Frenemy, Crunchy, got sprayed!” Bug shouted as we loaded up into the car.
At home, all seemed status quo. I got everyone tucked into bed. Prayers were said for Daddy, for our home and for Crunchy.
Before going to bed I made sure every door and window was locked. In fact I checked twice. I put the unloaded shotgun next to my bed and double checked that the safety was on, even though I had it opened and could see to the floor through the barrel. It’s not the pumping kind. It’s one that you sort of crack in half to load. It is a beautiful gun from Turkey that my BIL gave my brother for Christmas about 11 years ago. Finally, I laid myself down. My glasses were in their case on my nightstand next to the non-lethals.
My world is strange.
Drake is growling and Sasha is whining. The garage door opens.
I ran to the window and saw a shadow moving in my driveway. I don’t know how he already had the trash can dumped and had scored a bag in just the time it took for me to get out of bed and to the window! I noticed the barrel seemed unscathed. He carried his bag of trash up the hill to his picnic spot.
“HA!!” I shouted out the window.
“Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch…”
“GET! GO ON!!”
“Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch…”
I released the hounds.
“Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch…” And then, very slowly, the shadow moved. I thought he might be moving on but instead the shadow slowly descended the hill and back to my driveway.
I grabbed the shotgun and popped two of the non-lethal slugs into the barrel. I felt bold but was shaking some when I slammed the gun shut. Making sure the safety was still on, I went into the office, opened the window and set myself up. Crunchy heard me and moved back up the hill a bit. He was near a tree and at a distance that I knew the slug could still reach him but he was no longer as easy a target as he was when he was in the driveway. I decided to try it anyway. Maybe the sound alone would be enough to make him go away. I turned off the safety, raised the gun and fired. Crunchy took off at a gallop back up the hill. I sat and listened for awhile but heard no more bear sounds. Even the dogs were quiet. There was no shadow moving about, slow or fast. I brought the dogs back in, double checked the lock at the door. I checked the safety on the gun again and set it back in its place. Then I called My Man.
I relayed the night’s events to him.
“Should I go out and close the garage door? I’ll have to take some time to pick things up a bit in order to do so because there are broken pots and the trash can under the door.”
“No. Maybe put the light on in the garage but I don’t want you going out there right now. I doubt he’ll be back though.”
“I wish you were home,” I said.
“Me too, Baby. I’m sorry… Hey, how’d it feel to fire that gun?”
“Ha ha! Pretty freakin’ good actually. Babe, I think I’m like, 100% Mountain Woman now.”
He laughed, agreed and bid me good night. I snuggled back down under my covers and wondered if I was still a Mountain Woman even though I was shaking.
Drake is growling again and runs to the office window, slamming his body into it.
I didn’t even examine the situation this time. I knew what I’d see. I grabbed the gun. After I got the dogs out of the office, I shut the door and set myself up at my Sniper Post. Crunchy was sitting under the basketball goal which was right next to the barrel and only about 15 to 20 feet from me. I turned off the safety, raised the gun and….
…the bedroom door opened and Buddy slipped in. I wanted him no where near the gun because, though non-lethal to a bear, I’m pretty sure it could cause damage to us especially at such a close range.
“Get out!” I growled.
Buddy quickly slipped back out of the room. I turned back to the bear. Even Crunchy recognizes the danger in a Mama Bear’s voice and he moved up the hill. Not all the way home but…I had startled him which is more than three grown women and two big dogs could do the previous night. He was still with in reach of the slugs so I thought I’d try again. I aimed and fired and he ran off for the second time last night.
After securing the gun again, I called Buddy into the room.
“Shut the door and don’t let the dogs in,” I instructed. “Sorry I snapped at you. This whole thing makes me nervous and I want to make sure we’re as safe as possible.”
“I know. I just wanted to see the bear.”
“Tell you what: I’m going to sleep here on the futon. You can sleep here with me if you want. When he comes I’ll wake you up. But you have to be quiet. I’m going to wait until he’s right under the window again so I don’t miss this time.”
“I think it would be pretty cool to see you shoot a gun!” he stage whispered.
“OK, then you can stay here with me. I doubt he’ll come back a third time though.”
I slipped out of the room with the gun to unload the empty shells and reload it with the last two slugs. I returned to the office, careful to keep the dogs out. Buddy was already breathing serenely. I laid in the futon, which is under the window. I left it open and stared at the stars for awhile. At some point, I fell asleep.
Drake is barking and trying to get into the office. Sasha is running up and down the hallway. Bug is sleeping though it all. Buddy is sitting up in the futon.
“Alright, Buddy. Not a sound,” I whispered.
Crunchy was rummaging through the trash. Why does he never check out the barrel?! Argh! I suspect that he’s encountered one before and knows what it is. I waited for Crunchy to find something he liked and settled his big rump down under the basketball goal. This was perfect. There is no way I could possibly miss a target this size and this close with a shotgun. I got the gun, careful to not let it bump anything so there was no noise. Not that this bear is afraid of loud noises but I didn’t want him to move far away. I wanted him close. I turned off the safety, raised the gun and POP!
Crunchy high tailed it out of there!
“You got him Mom!” Buddy shout whispered.
“I don’t know…he didn’t make a sound but I can’t see how I could’ve missed….”
“No! You definitely got him! I saw it! That was sooo awesome!!”
Yep. It kind of was.
To Do List:
– Call Division of Wildlife again.
– clean up hill
– buy ammonia for the trash can and more anise oil for the barrel. (They are leaving that with me for a week.)
– make a Plan B.