Margaret's Musings: Bears are here — now what do we do?At first I thought our neighbor had put one of those black bear plywood cutouts in his neatly trimmed lawn, but then it started moving and I realized what I’d hoped for had finally happened — our first bear sighting just across the pond.
At first I thought our neighbor had put one of those black bear plywood cutouts in his neatly trimmed lawn, but then it started moving and I realized what I’d hoped for had finally happened — our first bear sighting just across the pond.
I scrambled for a camera and my husband grabbed the binoculars. The bear seemed to have no fear as it slowly rambled toward our neighbor’s house. It was large (estimates have it at close to 300 pounds), and our neighbor startled it, causing it to retreat back into the woods from which it came.
For years, I have regularly scanned our property for bears, hoping one would appear. I can make any dark shadow in the woods look like a bear in my mind’s eye. From the Santa Bear collection to the casting of an actual grizzle bear paw hanging on our living room wall, I have always had a fascination with the “cute bruins.”
They were always a favorite on trips to the zoo and the television programs showing bears in their natural habitat, from Alaska’s Kodiak fishing brown bears to the polar bears rummaging through Churchill. I can’t really explain it.
We are fortunate enough to have had a virtual parade of wildlife pass through our yard and pond: egrets, great blue heron, wood ducks, a beaver, muskrat, Canada geese, green heron, deer and turkeys (dozens of them), not to mention bats, raccoons, turtles, frogs and a significant collection of song birds. Over the years, the species have changed in both type and numbers and now we can add a single black bear to the list.
In the meantime, here at the Hudson Star-Observer the reports of black bear sightings have been steadily on the rise for the last decade to the point where at times we get submitted photos of bears almost weekly.
The first one I remember was well over a decade ago (we were still shooting and processing our own black and white film), when I dashed out of the office with camera in hand to a residence on Gilbert Road. The owner was mowing his lawn when a black bear appeared. Fortunately, I arrived in time to photograph it as it ambled about the yard walking up to the riding John Deere lawn mower without fear.
Since then, I and other staff members have done an assortment of stories regarding black bears making our geographic area part of their natural range.
I remembering photographing the severed paws of one such animal, the claws removed for, no doubt, illegal trade. Then there was the story of the fellow who hit a bear with his pick-up truck, unknowingly dragging it all the way home, only to find it still under the truck the next morning.
As the black bear increasingly makes St. Croix and Pierce counties part of its natural range, we are occasionally reminding residents there is no turning back — the bear is here to stay and we have to learn how to live in harmony with it.
Bears are loners. A male bear needs up to 27 square miles for his territory. A female only wanders about 5 miles. So it “bears” repeating a few precautions for residents to take (courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources):
1. Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before disposal.
2. Compost vegetable scraps.
3. Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day.
4. Keep garbage cans enclosed in a building until pickup.
5. Remove bird feeders in the spring.
6. Keep pet food inside.
7. Keep barbecue grills and picnic tables clean.
8. Barking dogs, bright lights and noisemakers may discourage bears from coming into your area.
If you see a bear:
1. Don’t panic, don’t shoot and don’t approach the bear.
2. Most bears fear people and will leave the area when they see you.
3. If you happen to surprise a bear at close range, back away slowly, always leaving the animal an escape route.
4. If a bear is treed, leave it alone. It will leave the area when it feels safe. Do not gather around the base of the tree — that will frighten it more.
5. Leave the area and remove all dogs from the area so the bear has an escape route.
In the meantime, I will patiently wait to glimpse another Ursus Americanus when it ambles out of our woods.