Black Bear

2024 June 9

So this morning (June 9, 2024), Rosie stepped out of the front door with the intent of going for a short walk. But instead, she popped back inside immediately and announced (surprisingly calmly, considering), “There’s a bear in the yard. Right now. Right there”. She got this picture when we came to the door to check this out.

I was extremely concerned about this, because (a) I keep bees, and (b) we all know about bears and bees. This next picture isn’t as zoomed in, but it does show why the bear was in the yard in the first place:

The white and green boxes on the ground next to the tree are a nucleus beehive[1] that he had just knocked over. So, I yelled at him until he ran off [2], and then got on my beekeeping gear to clean up after him. Luckily, Rosie spotted him before he could really settle in and chow down, so the actual damage was minimal.

He also left a little present for us on the lawn. It is about six inches in diameter. I can’t really tell what he was eating by looking at it, but he looked pretty sleek and healthy, so he’s clearly been getting enough of something to eat.

So, anyway, I spent most of the day reinforcing my anti-bear fences[3], so hopefully he won’t come back and cause any further damage.

[1] A nucleus hive is a small beehive split out of a larger one, usually with the intent of having it mature into a full-blown hive. This particular one was in the nature of an experiment. See, we have two pear trees in the yard that are big enough to produce fruit, but their actual productivity is fairly poor (two years ago we got about a dozen pears. Last year we got only one pear). I have read that pears are not very attractive to pollinators, so a lot of the time they just don’t get pollinated well. So, this year I split out a nucleus hive from one of my full-sized hives, and placed it directly under the pear tree so that the bees from it would find the pear blossoms first. It is a bit early to be sure, but it seems to have worked. Although, it also seems to have drawn in a bear.

[2] Black bears (Ursus americanus) are not at all the same as grizzly bears. They are only about the size of a large human, and kind of shy. This one probably wouldn’t even have come up to my waist. From his point of view, I probably looked pretty big and scary. Plus, I was pretty mad. As long as they don’t feel cornered, they will run from a person. I only remember about hearing of one local case in the last 40 years or so of a black bear actually attacking a person around here, and even then he only chewed on her a bit.

[3] I’ve been getting kind of lax about my bear fences, since it has been over a decade since we’ve had one come into our yard. It turns out that he had gone to visit my other two hives first, and had knocked both of them over, but hadn’t done any further damage to them because they were FULL OF BEES. And while a bear can tolerate a lot of stings, there are limits. The nucleus hive, on the other hand, only had maybe a tenth or a twentieth as many bees as the big hives did, so that was much more his speed. Still, he had gotten through to the big hives because I had let things deteriorate to the point where there was just an electric fence which had gotten partially shorted by wet grass. So, once I got the hives re-stacked, I rebuilt everything to the way it had been ten years ago: first, there is a 3-strand electric fence at the right height where a bear has to touch at least two wires to get through. And outside of that, I have a second fence, but this one is barbed wire mounted on steel T-posts. The problem is that a bear can get through an electric fence by charging it and getting through quickly. And a bear can get through a barbed wire fence by kind of picking his way through it. But when the two types of fence are used together, the barbed wire slows him down enough that he can’t get through quickly. And once he is engaged with the barbed wire he is well and thoroughly grounded, so that when he touches the electric fence he gets a good, solid jolt. Back in the years when we had bears coming around frequently, this type of fence worked really well, so hopefully it will still work now. Plus, I hauled out the “Critter Gitter”. This is a device that senses when an animal gets within about 15 feet, and when it detects something it immediately wails loudly and flashes a bright light. It scares me when it goes off, and I can’t imagine the animals are too sanguine about it, either.

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