Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lunchtime Bear Drama

The bears are awake, and hungry! We had some major bear drama this week with the first bear sighting of the spring. It had been a routine morning in my home office - the usual series of phone calls, training proposals, and WebEx meetings. Shortly after noon I went upstairs to make a sandwich for lunch, Lady accompanying me as she always does. When we returned, I was surprised to see a large bear walking past the window next to my desk. Somehow - miraculously - Lady did not see or hear it. She returned to her spot by the futon and lay down next to Katie, and I was able to discreetly move toward the window and take some great pics as Mr. Bear checked out the area in back where I've been feeding the birds all winter. 

At one point he seemed startled by the moon birdhouse. I watched as he huffed at it, then took a cautious sniff, before proceeding to snack on the seed atop the overturned planter.

We haven't had a bear come through here since last fall, presumably due to the colder than average winter. Bears around here don't go into true hibernation the way they do up north, but sightings are less frequent, and I'd been counting my bear-free blessings. Recently however, there have been stories of bears out and about on the other side of the neighborhood, so I knew it was just a matter of time. The warm weather draws them out and they start to roam. Unfortunately for me, this also means it's time to take the bird feeders down. :(

Black bears are beautiful, and I'd probably enjoy seeing them a great deal if they weren't such a nuisance to my bird watching. But, it's hard to fault any creature for taking advantage of an easy snack. This particular bear watching episode was quite entertaining until...


No Mr. Bear, you are not invited to the 1 pm WebEx meeting! Go away! Shoo! I waved my hands ineffectually, not wanting to make noise and wake up Lady. I couldn't figure out why he was looking in the window. Then I realized he wasn't interested in me, he was interested in the feeder hanging on the hook above. 

It was at about this time that Lady realized we were under siege. In 1/1000th of a second she went from peacefully asleep on the floor to full attack mode. It was something to see, my sweet doe-eyed Lady transformed in an instant to a crazed, ferocious junkyard German Shepherd, lunging and frothing, her deafening barks echoing off the walls. The bear backed away briefly, standing on its back legs to its full height to assess the threat. For an endless moment we stared at each other through the window, bear and woman with crazed dog. 

Apparently deciding us to be harmless in spite of the noise, the bear resumed its efforts to get the feeder. When the bear put both paws on the window and the frame began to creak, I decided it was time to leave. 

I was holding onto Lady's collar, but wrangling 85 pounds of extremely determined German Shepherd is easier said than done. She was in such a frenzy, she hit her nose on the window and gave herself a nosebleed. Bouncing and lunging in spite of my efforts to hold her, she managed to fling blood all over me and my office before I finally managed to haul her out into the hall. Katie, bless her heart, is as deaf as a post, and had just raised her head with a quizzical look on her face - "Huh? Is something going on?" - when I slammed my office door shut. Sorry Katie. 

I grabbed a towel from the bathroom and pressed it against Lady's nose, as she continued to bark and try to writhe free, the whites of her eyes giving her a crazed, insane look in the dim hallway. Clearly she thought this was a life and death situation, and it was her job to protect us all. After a few more seconds of attending to Lady's nose and talking to her in as soothing tones as one can muster when a bear is about to come through your window, I ran upstairs and grabbed a pan from the kitchen. People can say all they want about bear spray and such, but in my experience, a pot with a lid is the best defense against a bear. Out on the back deck, I clanged lid and pot together repeatedly, making a huge ruckus. 

The poor bear ran away so fast, he fell halfway down the slope behind the house in his haste to get away. I was relieved to see him get up and continue running, apparently none the worse for the tumble. I didn't want him in my office, but didn't want him hurt either! 

I went back inside and checked Lady. I didn't have any tricks up my sleeve for handling "dog nosebleeds," so was immensely relieved to discover that the bleeding had stopped on its own. Next I returned to my office...oh my... 

There was blood on the windowsill, splattered on the iPod dock, the floor, dripping down the windows. It looked like the shower scene from Psycho. 

In the middle of this macabre scene was Katie, standing in the center of the room, tail wagging uncertainly. I laughed in spite of myself. Sweet little old dog. She knew something noteworthy had occurred, but wasn't quite sure what. Lady came in and sniffed her all over, making sure she was okay. After giving both of them reassuring pats, I went off in search of cleaning supplies.

The most amusing part of the whole experience came after I returned to work. Just before lunch I had been awaiting an important application from an employee trying to snag a last minute opening in a class. As I typed out the email one and a half hours later, I mentally searched for a way to explain my sudden disappearance and the delayed paperwork. Finally I settled on:

"I apologize for the delay, something unexpected came up." 

If they only knew.

My, what big claws you have!! 


  1. Oh my! What an adventure! I'm so glad that none of the creatures were hurt…except for poor Lady's nose! Ouch! You did a fabulous job with the tale…thank you! :-)

  2. Wow Brenda, that was an adventure!

  3. Oh my gosh! I held my breath the entire time I was reading this. :) So glad all are okay.

    great pictures, great story, but "when the window began to creak" i think i would not have just gone to another room i would have tried to get that bear outta there. what if he'd fallen through the window? wow, what a story!!!

    1. That's exactly what I did Laurie! I'd say only about 90 seconds elapsed from the time he leaned on the window until the time I was upstairs out on the back deck clanging the pot. I had to take a few seconds to try to stop Lady's nosebleed, she was getting blood everywhere! But I quickly just left her and ran upstairs to get the pot. Thankfully the bear did NOT break the window... otherwise I would have had a much bigger mess to clean up in my office... :P

  5. ps---more on the owls soon. the mother is definitely in the nest (i got pictures). "branching" is when the owlets emerge from the nest, usually at around 6 weeks of age. they can't yet fly, so they sit on a branch for a few weeks until they are big and strong enough to fly. once they come out of the nest, they don't go back in, ever.

    1. I am so glad the mother is still in the nest!

  6. Wow! I am wondering where you live? I see bear tracks occasionally in March but they are never active enough to come looking for food until at least a month later. I am in Colorado at over 8000'.

    We built a bear-proof birdfeeder, and it has withstood a decade of bears trying to get to the birdfood. I adore bears, and I adore birds. This lets me still watch the birds even during bear season. Since putting it up, we get only a couple of bear visits per year - the resident bears know that they can't actually get food here so they don't come.

    "Something came up!) - hahaha!!!! I once was late for an appt because I'd been outside and met a mama bear and 2 cubs who blocked my way on the trail (the cubs were up a tree and mom wasn't leaving). I had to go a very long way to get home... and was late. I should've used the "something came up" excuse :)

  7. Ok, I am a first time visitor to your blog and that is amazing. I'm with KB, where do you live? Great photos, and I'm glad there was no more injury than the bloody nose.

  8. What a great story and what great pictures! I love that paw!

  9. KB and Roxy, I live in western North Carolina, at an elevation of about 2700 practically "sea level" compared to where you live KB! Black bears are frequent visitors here, even at my old house in Asheville, which was within the city limits only a couple of miles from downtown! Red fox and wild turkeys are also commonly seen here throughout the year. It generally doesn't get cold enough for the animals to truly hibernate, but they are certainly less active, and probably nap a lot in winter (like me!). This winter was a cold one, with several nights below zero. We are all ready for spring, humans and animals alike. :-)

  10. I love your bear tales. Miss you too.

  11. Wow! What an amazing and scary adventure!
    You and Lady are very courageous! I am sorry that Lady hit her nose on the window and had a nosebleed. You took fantastic pictures, Brenda! What a big bear with big paws! Fortunately the bear did not break the window. Wow! What a great adventure!

  12. What a story! I too am sorry Lady hit her nose on the window and it bleed. Poor baby and poor you for having to be the cleaning lady. But good for her for defending her family. I would have been terrified that the window would break with the bear's weight. You were very brave Brenda and also a very good nurse. We get bears in our yard from time to time and I agree, a lot of noise from pots and pans is a good way to get them to shoo.

    BTW, thanks for commenting about the printable recipes. I've wanted to add them for a long time, but didn't know where to find an easy solution. They are new and I've tried to go back to old posts and add the printable version. If you see one that you want that doesn't have the print option, please let me know and I'll fix it right away.

  13. Wow! Look at the size of those feet and claws! Truly amazing animals. Awesome that you got such a close look... awesome and worrisome, listening to the creak of the window frame! wow again.

    What a crazy interlude in your day.

    I have been thinking about bears lately, wondering when I might see some signs, but it is snowing here again today and we still have about three feet covering everything. It is nice to see spring in your pictures!

  14. I'd say that's a once in a lifetime occurrence, but it sounds like that's not the case for you. We've never seen a black bear on our property, even though the Nantahala National Forest borders our property. I think we may be too high at 3700 feet. We certainly have enough bird feeders around to attract them. I suppose I should count my blessings.

    You wrote this beautifully, I really enjoyed it. Here's to hoping you stay bear free:)

  15. We hope Lady was ok. We don't know how we would handle this situation. We probably would of been gone the very first second. Thanks for sharing this tale. Have a great day.
    World of Animals