Lions and tiger and bears, oh my!

| 29 Sep 2011 | 10:32

I was reminded of that saying the other day. George had just gone out the kitchen door to take some garbage out, when he darted back in again, yelling, “Look out the window!” I had to stretch over the kitchen sink before I could finally see it: a dark-brown bear fiddling with something on the lawn. Curious, we both went back outside on the porch to get a closer look. He had pulled the bird feeder off the clothesline. The line ran from the house to a tree and the nails on the side of the house and the pulley end of the clothesline were totally bent over. The bear was holding the long, rectangular bird feeder with his claws, and sticking his pink tongue in it to get at the seeds. His head was massive, his tongue longer than the bird feeder, his paws huge, and his claws - they were longer than my fingers. We yelled, clapped our hands and stamped our feet. No reaction. There was total calmness, complete abandonment to the task at hand: get those seeds. Concerned that if we just let him feed, he would come back again, I got a pot lid and a spoon and started banging. The noise was deafening. No response. I inched down the steps toward him — he was now about 8 feet — from me and banged madly. It was like I did not exist. When the bear had his fill he got up and lumbered off. That’s when we realized how big he was: well over four feet in the haunches, and probably six feet from head to rump. My reaction is what reminded me of the saying “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” Not only did Dorothy have to overcome her fear of the lion, but she had to overcome her discrimination of lions, about what they were capable of doing, and how dangerous they were. Of course, in the land of Oz, Dorothy’s lion was less aggressive than a pussycat. In my case, I realized I got so close to him because he let me; he wasn’t scared of me. At first, that bothered me. Why wasn’t he intimidated by me? I decided maybe I didn’t need to fear his presence in the woods, either. I had to overcome the feeling that the bear did not belong there. A call to the state troopers made it clear this is their stance as well. Since then my husband and I have made adjustments. The bird feeder is now in a fenced-in area. I walk my dog Joey at night without a flashlight. It’s not just bear I have to look out for: it’s the skunk and its babies (a narrow miss last night) and the deer. And we are vigilant with the garbage — trying to find the right spray that will keep him away, or the right can, and not keeping garbage outside unless there is pickup. When Joey begins barking madly in the evening, we know to check outside for an animal getting into mischief. It’s funny. I grew up in Canada and always lived on the edge of town as a child. I spent a lot of time at my parent’s cottage, and even lived on a farm or two, but I never was exposed to the wilderness as I am here, 50 miles from New York City. Daryl Bailin