Family matters

Hungry Bears Drop By For A Backyard Picnic

bear in trash
Un-bear-able behavior —One man’s trash is another bear’s lunch!

I took our dogs out around 10 pm recently when our Chihuahua started barking her head off. She stared at a spot beyond our fence, near the garage cans. I couldn’t see anything…just shifting black shadows against a black background.

And then I saw a dim patch of tan fur.

I grabbed the Chihuahua under one arm, and our Jack Russell/dachshund mix under the other (no easy feat since she’s rather rotund).

“Let’s get inside,” I said to my wife. “I think we’ve got a bear.”

Bear With It

This wasn’t the first time bears have visited. Two years ago I put my garbage out on a Monday night and awoke Tuesday morning to overturned cans and trash strewn all over the street. Last year, they went after our bird feeders, crushing one, and swatting another from its hook. I found it 20 feet away in the middle of our yard.

But this was the first time we’d actually seen bear in action. I got my flashlight and shined it out the window. There was a bear roughly the size of a Rottweiler climbing over our fence. Momma was already in our back yard, standing next to an overturned garbage can. She was huge, 600 pounds at least. She looked at my flashlight beam, but wasn’t the least intimidated. She calmly went back to eating our Chinese leftovers; tan snout poking around in a square white container of fried rice.

We’d never had bears inside our fence before (as far as we knew), and it was a bit unsettling. Momma was big.

“They must be starving,” my wife noted.

“Should I chase them away?” I asked. It seemed a little late to be banging pots and pans. Plus, I had a feeling these bears wouldn’t scare easily (not as easily as I would, at least).

“Let them eat,” my wife said. “They’ll go away when they’re finished.”

“Should I call the police?” I asked.

My wife looked at me like I should be wearing a pink muumuu and bunny slippers.

“Let them eat.”

Grin And Bear It

So for the next hour the bears had a leisurely picnic in our back yard. They tore open another bag and started in on my wife’s ziti. It was awesome the week before, and apparently the bears found it still pretty tasty. Junior sprawled out on its belly, head inside our garbage can, while Big Momma stood a few feet away.

Eventually I looked out and saw that Junior was gone. Momma was still there, but after a few minutes she stood, put her paws against the trunk of a tree, and started climbing up. I could only imagine the strength it took to haul her big butt up that tree. It was an amazing sight, breathtakingly beautiful and pee-your-pants scary all at once.

bear trash
Yeah, that’s gonna be a fun clean-up.

Insert Stupid Bear Pun Here

I checked back an hour later and didn’t see any sign of bears, other than a bunch of torn trash bags and several broken fence pickets.

I was about to go get the dogs when I heard a growl come from the dark tree branches above me. It was deep, resonant, and somewhat metallic, like a corrugated garage door being thrown open, or an engine block dragged across a concrete floor. I ran back inside.

“I think they’re still out there! Up in the tree!” I said to my wife.

“So we’ll put the dogs on leashes and take them in the front yard,” she said.

“Should I, like…bring a baseball bat?”

“Don’t be scared,” my wife said. “Our Chihuahua will protect you.”

She’s funny, my wife.

Hope she keeps her sense of humor when she’s cleaning up the yard tomorrow.


Originally published in Wayne TODAY, November 2011

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