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Musing: Does A Bear Sit In The Woods?
Our neighborhood greenway is a serene oasis from the drone of traffic and sirens, a peaceful respite for both man and beast. Peaceful as long as man and beast don’t conflict, that is.
For much of its path, the trail winds through the woods along the side of a creek. Since we walk it with the dogs twice a day, we’ve come to know many of our neighbors in the time we’ve lived here.
One such couple—let’s call them Sydney and Renee—start their day with a shared walk. They are a happy couple, always laughing and bantering with each other, so they are a joy to encounter.
One recent morning, we saw them coming toward us from the opposite direction. They greeted the dogs warmly and provided the requisite ear scratches before turning their attention to us.
That’s normal, by the way. The dogs would be disappointed if they had to play second fiddle.
Still rubbing a canine ear, Sydney asked, “Did you hear it?”
Without any details to go on, I had to ask, “Hear what?”
Renee chimed in. “The dogs barking earlier. One of them started it, and then several others joined. A giant ruckus of barking and yapping.”
Now, we weren’t talking about our dogs, who might get accused of singing and howling, but not barking, so I was still clueless. “We missed it. When was this?”
Sydney answered, “At least a half hour ago.”
Renee looked at him. “No more than fifteen minutes.”
“Thirty to forty.”
“Ten to fifteen. Max.”
It didn’t really matter, since the sun was just peeking over the horizon. Not many people stir in the neighborhood that early. If someone was up to no good, they would be obvious. “Did you see anyone?”
Renee said, “No, I don’t think it was a burglar or anything. Probably an animal they were scaring away.”
Sydney agreed. “Yes. Definitely an animal, but not like a squirrel. You can always tell when a dog is barking at a squirrel. This was bigger. Likely a coyote.”
Renee scoffed. “Nah, it would be more than one if it was a coyote, and we would have heard them yipping last night. It was a quieter animal like a bobcat.”
Sydney laughed. “A bobcat? They’re too wily to let a dog see them. I’m going with coyote.”
My eyes darted around the shadows of the underbrush on either side of the trail. Coyotes and bobcat wouldn’t concern me much if that’s what they were because they would have silently slipped away during the commotion. But one big animal wouldn’t scare so easily.
I asked, “Maybe a bear?”
They turned back to us and agreed, “Yep, a bear. Had to be a bear.”
Bear really was the most likely answer. Plenty of wildlife roams in the vicinity, but bears are about as common as it gets. At least two mama bears live in the neighborhood—one with three cubs and one with two—which makes it easy to distinguish between the two families.
We’ve also had a fairly large male wander through our yard. He could certainly be dad to all 5 cubs, though with the thousands of bears in our mountains, the possible dad list is lengthy.
Running into bears during our walks is fairly common. For the most part, they have no more interest in tangling with humans than we humans have in tangling with them, but a mom can be quite protective of her cubs.
Several people have been charged this year. It’s mostly bluster, but still quite scary when it happens.
To avoid confrontation, we do our best to avoid them. Neighbors pass along the locations of last sightings, so we all can be alert and careful.
Spotting mama bear in all the underbrush can be quite a challenge, but there is a trick. When she feels threatened, she will send the cubs up the nearest tree to wait until she gives the all clear. Thus, the fastest way to locate mom is to look for the cubs up high.
In this case, though, the overhead branches contained only chattering squirrels and birds. No bruins lurked.
I said, “Thanks for the heads-up. We’ll keep our eyes open for them.”
We said our goodbyes and they resumed their trek. I was a few steps down the trail when I realized I was missing a key piece of information. They had said they heard the dogs barking several minutes earlier. But since they walk a big circle like we do, I didn’t know where in the neighborhood they were at the time.
I turned around and asked, “Which direction was it?”
With confidence on their faces, they each stretched out an arm and pointed. “That way.”
Just one slight problem. Sydney pointed down the trail in the direction we were traveling. Renee pointed up the trail in the direction we had come from.
Sydney chuckled. “Don’t you remember? We were down below the Smith’s house when we heard the dogs.”
“No, we were over near the Wyatt’s. I remember because we were talking about the new shutters they put up. We were in that direction.”
“Nope, I’m positive. It was the Smith’s.”
I didn’t see this getting resolved any time soon, so I thanked them for the information, and we carried on with our walk.
To review what little we knew: We had an intruder some time in the last hour who might or might not have been a bear who was either in front of us or behind us. For safety’s sake, we asked ourselves the age-old question: Does a bear sit in the woods?
That is the age-old question, right?
Enjoyed The Story? How About A Novel?
Gratuitous Dog Photo: Avoiding The Brush
I suggested to His Royal Highness Little Prince Typhoon Phooey that he might benefit from a little brushing since he has decided to transition to his winter coat. He has a quite different opinion. The appearance of the brush means the disappearance of the Little Prince.
On The Website This Week
Spectacular Vernacular Word of the Week: Mammothrept (Grandmothers really shouldn’t blame me for this one)
September survey results: Our Halloween survey reveals readers’ Scariest Monsters.
The October survey is nearing a record number of reader responses and the answers are quite divided. How does cranberry sauce fit into the traditional Thanksgiving dinner? Let me know your thoughts.
Until Next Monday
Be careful out there, especially if you walk among the bears. See you next Monday.
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