Unwelcome Dinner Guest

By: 
Janie Thibodeau Martin

In mid-May we were away from home for eight days, and our two dogs were boarded.  A pet sitter visited regularly for the cats and the horse, but things were strangely quiet at our house.  And it was that unusual condition that probably encouraged the black bear, a large male we see occasionally on our trail cameras, to bend a strong steel shepherd’s hook like a hairpin and haul our squirrel proof feeder down to the ground over our rock retaining wall.  The feeder is squirrel proof; it is clearly NOT bear-proof.  We had a bear visit to our feeder once before, but quite some time ago. 

We attributed the raid to the lack of human and dog activity while we were away. Mike fixed the feeder and things were normal for a couple weeks.  Then another visit.  We had my childhood wooden rocking horse on a stout 4 x 4 near our garden.  Last year we were troubled by wasps using the interior of the rocking horse as a nest, so Mike evicted them and filled the void with spray foam.  Problem solved...but the bear apparently could still smell their presence, so on an overnight return visit he tore the horse off the pole, mauled it open and scattered spray foam chunks all over.  That was the end of the horse.  The bird feeder was not attacked in this visit.  We were still very reluctant to remove the feeder that provides our strictly indoor cats and us with such joy.

Last Thursday, Mike and I went to my mother’s house in Marinette to do a few jobs.  We left at 7:45 a.m., and returned at 4 p.m.  The dogs were in the house, as usual.

When I let the dogs out in the fenced in yard after we got home, I noticed the feeder was gone again.  A broad daylight raid, brazen, with the dogs at home.  We noticed when we arrived home that our area rugs were rumpled up, but sometimes the dog’s play or agitation around a squirrel can cause that. Then we thought to look at the interior security camera we have, and got to review the chaos on video.

At 12:03 p.m., both dogs exploded off the floor.  Wolfgang is an 80- pound Siberian mix, with the distinctive husky voice.  He alternated terrifying loud big-dog barking with the Siberian husky prey howls and a few frustrated squeals as he ran from window to window, totally outraged.  Ivy maintained her post at the sliding door where she could see the attack on the feeder. Her angry barking, although loud, was barely audible over Wolfgang’s furious vocalizations.

Neither dog acted the least bit afraid of the visitor – an unwise attitude for them to take, so I am grateful we never leave them in the fence unattended.

Both our bird feeders, the bear’s favorite target and another that we have on the front porch have been removed and won’t be returned until we are sure the bears are hibernating.  It’s sad, because suddenly removing feed is hard on birds.  But since we are clearly on this bear’s radar, we need to remove his motivation to visit.  I think we have secured all our bear raid targets, and luckily my raspberry patch is a month away from berry picking, so we are probably okay until then.

The normal “home range” of a male black bear is 10 to 40 square miles.  Based on our trail cameras, this bear only passes through our land occasionally, but we had unfortunately created a lure to train him to visit more often.  Hopefully, he will be disappointed the next time he drops by, and will find food sources elsewhere.

Sometimes, to live and let live, it is necessary for us to modify our own choices.  This is an example, and while we will miss the feeder, encouraging a bear to become accustomed to finding food around human dwellings is not a good idea for their longevity.

In the meantime, we’ve had a lot of fun showing the impressive video of the dog freakout with friends and family across the country.  Wolfgang is a talented performer.

I welcome commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address:  JanieTMartin@gmail.com 

Janie Thibodeau Martin

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