By Judy Reiss
Last week I told you all about my wonderful little Yorkie, Lily. And this was a subject that I know everything about. She has been with me for almost 14 years and we have spent almost all of that time together. But this week, I am going to go outside my comfort zone and talking about something I know very little about. Why, you ask. Well, the answer is because I want to.
I don’t know about where you live, but where I live the bears are definitely marking their territory. By marking their territory I don’t mean that they are lifting their legs. Nope, what I mean is the bear population has decided to take back the land and the places that they have used for centuries. Now this wouldn’t be much of an issue except their good old homesteads have been infiltrated by flatlanders and Vermonters alike, who have built houses and definitely changed what used to be theirs. Now, I’m not sure the bears really care very much but the humans are more than upset and have no intention of sharing what they have with a family of bears!
Let’s look at this year just as an example. This year will probably go down in the history books as one of those winters that really never was. Again, I don’t know about you, but out here in the Valley, we had not enough snow to talk about. A dusting might be a good way to describe it. And with the lack of snow, we also had a very mild winter. And what about the bears and other creatures who usually hibernate or at least burrow away for some kind of a nap. For the first time ever, our standard poodle got hit, right in his poor face, by a skunk in early February. What was the skunk thinking? And why was it out in the middle of what should have been winter instead of nesting under our barn where they have spent the winter for generations!
Now back to the bears. Everyone in my neighborhood has heard and seen bears all winter long. Bear sightings seem to have taken the place of snowmobiling and skiing! In fact, there have been so many I wasn’t sure if a lot of those people were mistaking owls for bears when they heard the hoot, hoot, hooting. But the other day my good friend and neighbor actually met a bear face to face. Sharlia Palmer heard her dog Dondie barking at something at her kitchen door, so she went to look into her mudroom to see what was upsetting the dog. And she looked our the window in the door and was face to face with a HUGE papa bear. And he appeared to be a little annoyed that most of her good edibles were put away. So he had to content himself with a bag of garbage. As she told the story, she got more upset and the bear got bigger and bigger. By the time he lumbered off he looked like King Kong and could have climbed the Empire State Building! Although Sharlia was the only one I have heard of who has had a bear come into her house, most of my neighbors have had their garbage cans ravaged and their bird feeder absolutely ruined.
Now the question is whose fault is it that the bears have decided to interact with THEIR neighbors? I can’t help but think that since we have built all over their habitat it really isn’t their fault. Needless to say, I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think blaming the bears for being bears and then shooting them is the right answer!
And, of course, there is always the moron who sees a little bear cub and picks it up and then is savaged by the mother bear and then demands that she be killed because she hurt and scared him! I guess we have to educate our children that wild bears are not Teddy Bears and that we should enjoy seeing them in the wild and remember never to touch them. And if you just love to fed the birds and have feeders all over your yard, right about now is a good time to take them in at night, just in case a bear who is hungry, decides to pay a visit
So, what is this column actually about? Well, I think it is to remind us that the animals were here first and that we have to respect that fact. Whether it is deer, moose, bears, skunks, raccoons, or whatever, they have rights, too. And I don’t think that we really consider them much more than an annoyance.
So, here is my advice for today. Whether you are sitting outside in your lawn chair, or sitting in you recliner by your picture window, take the time to enjoy whatever wild animal walks by. But just be sure you are safe and your children are safe and know how to behave when they are outside. Put your garbage where no one but the garbage man can get it. And the birds will always be able to find your feeders, so if you have to put them out of harm’s way, do it. Your life isn’t that important that you can’t replace them tomorrow!