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Living in black bear country.

Have you ever opened your front door only to discover a black bear in the yard? Who then stood up because he was curious and wanted to get a better look at you?

How about driving down your long country driveway only to have to stop because a cub was in the road?

If you have, then chances are you have black bears for neighbors just like we do.

Here are some suggestions on how to avoid getting close enough to shake paws.

Bears rely on their sense of hearing and sense of smell more than their other senses. For that reason, it's a good idea to make noise when walking in the woods. Of course, most of us do anyway. We're just not able to compete with our four-footed furry friends in the stealth department. Talk, whistle or sing as you stroll along. If a black bear hears you coming, he'll get out of the way.

Also, stay out of the woods on days when the wind is blowing hard. Your scent is carried away by the wind before the bear can detect it. He just can't smell you coming. High winds also make it harder for the bear to hear.

Black bears are sometimes attracted to the scent of garbage or food. A good reason to do something about that trash the raccoons tore up. In some areas bears visit town dumps for their food supply. Don't go near them... it just isn't safe.

If you do accidentally encounter a black bear, the best thing to do is just walk away. Black bears are more passive than brown bears. They want to avoid an encounter almost as much as you do.

Don't forget, however, that they are wild bears. Give them the respect and distance they deserve.

The time of year to be extra cautious is early summer. Female black bears are out with their cubs. Bears are very protective mothers. Never approach the cubs. Don't get between the female and her cubs! Again, just walk away. If you don't, you may find you have a very large problem on your hands.

Our family lives in the woods where the closest bear sign is 1,200 feet away. Apparently our yard was a regular travel route for bears prior to our arrival, which explains our two previous black bear visitors. Now that the bears know we are here, they have moved further up the hill.

To answer a reader's question about bears and livestock, I can only speak from our own experiences. We raise chickens and turkeys here for meat. For their own safety they are not free-ranged. There has never been a problem with a bear. We're more concerned about the coyotes getting the birds, than the bears.

After butchering we bury all nonusable remains to avoid tempting wild animals in to dine.

Since our bear encounters we got a black Labrador puppy. He now weighs 105 pounds and along with our little 13-pound dog, they discourage wild animals from the yard and coops.

If you have any questions about the bears in your area, call your local game warden.

More about bears ...

and other fearsome

wild creatures

This article is in response to a reader who was moving to bear country... and was very apprehensive about it. But it could be taken by many in a much broader context.

For example, we have heard from people who were extremely reluctant to move beyond the sidewalks for reasons that, to them apparently, are as fearsome as man-eating bears. Things like snakes and mice, ticks and spiders, and believe it or not, even boxelder bugs.

There are definitely "irrational" and uncontrollable fears that last a lifetime, despite all experience. But in most cases, these fears seem to be more of the "unknown" than of vicious tooth and claw.

When we moved to the northwoods, bears were one of Diane's gravest concerns.

At first, seeing a bear, even from the safety of a moving truck, was an exciting experience for both of us.

While there is still the thrill of seeing such majestic animals in nature, it has become much more like - well, like seeing the first robin of spring. Last fall Diane saw bears twice, while on foot: one while walking home from the office alone one evening. As it stood on its hind legs in the brush along the road they looked at each other for a moment. Then the bear dropped to all fours and ran away.

Caution is still advised, especially around cubs, or sows that might have cubs nearby. But to let fear of them spoil your enjoyment of the outdoors, or even living near them, is unwarranted.

By the way: a bear-hunting neighbor was jealous of Diane. She saw more bears last year than he did, and he spent days in the woods looking for them!
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Cotter, Ann
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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