Friday, September 9, 2011

Late Night Visitor

Last night we had a late night (or very early morning) visitor of the wildlife variety.  My neighbors have all talked about their bear sightings and I was feeling a little left out, but no more.

When I was putting all the dogs in their respective bedrooms (each dog sleeps in a different family member) Diva, our white standard poodle, decided that she didn't want to leave the warm bed in the mudroom.  Not a problem since she normally sleeps in my room.   I left her there to spend the night.  The mudroom doubles as our dog hangout with the doggie door, water bowl, food bowls and the most comfortable of our dog beds.  I closed the storm door which keeps her from using the doggie door during the night and went off to bed.

At around 3:00am Friday morning I woke up to Diva barking.  Nothing urgent.  I assumed she had gotten lonely and went to the mudroom to get her.  I thought I heard the doggie door swing just before I opened the mudroom door, so I thought she might need to go outside for a potty break.  I took her around to one of the other doors and let her out to the bathroom.  She stepped outside tentatively, took a drink out of the fountain and then came back inside.  Next, she settled down on her bed in my room and I thought all was good until she barked again.

She only barked once; which is unusual for Diva.  She is protective of her land and does her best to keep it free of squirrels, birds and the occasional deer or elk which normally results in a loud tirade of barking.  I had just drifted off to sleep, but this time I knew I had definitely heard something out of the ordinary.  I got out of bed and walked to the glass door to pull the curtain aside and look out into the courtyard.  I had expected to see a coyote in the light of the night's full moon, but what I saw instead was a rather large black bear.

I watched as he walked from our interior courtyard past our front door and around the corner to our garage.  I briefly thought about taking a picture since my darling husband wasn't home and I knew he would want to see a picture of this fellow, but my camera was in the car.  In my sleepiness I almost walked outside to get the camera, but thankfully even when partially asleep I am still somewhat rational.  I did a quick check of all the doors to make sure he couldn't get in and locked the doggie door down just in case he opened the storm door and poked his head through the doggie door to get to the bin of dog food.

Feeling secure I crawled back into bed for the second time in 30 minutes and drifted in and out of sleep as I thought about an adult bear wandering around outside our house.  I was wondering where he was just about the time I heard him on our roof.  Our property is unique in that the side of the garage (that he had walked around earlier) is within 18" of the hillside at our roofline and once on the roof you can walk around the top of our entire house.  I listened as I traced his steps around from the living room to the kitchen and then down the hall.  He stopped just short of our bedroom.  I couldn't tell if he turned around to leave or laid down for a nap, but I fell asleep again dreaming about bears dancing on our roof.

When my alarm clock went off Friday morning I wondered if it had all been a dream until I looked out into the courtyard to see that one bird feeder was without the saucer at the bottom and the other was missing entirely.  Not only was it missing, but the decorative iron hook from which it hung had been pulled off the house (4 screws into wood siding) and lay twisted on the ground.  However, what impressed me the most was that this big fellow had managed to stand in our flower garden outside the floor to ceiling windows in front of our stairs and not only did he not step on any of our plants, but he didn't put a mark on the windows either.  What a relief.  I'm not entirely sure the glass could hold the weight of a full grown bear, and I would rather not find out.

I woke up the kids and dogs and told them (the kids, not the dogs) of the adventure they had missed.  As we went about our normal morning routine our conversation was punctuated with funny and entertaining bear remarks and questions, but nothing significant.  That is until we went outside to get into our car.  That bear is a bad, bad boy.

Our late night visitor had opened our garage door (I had checked it right before going to bed and it was closed) using the handle at the bottom and lifted it just high enough for him to walk in on all fours (about 4').  I tentatively bent over and looked in to the garage half expecting to see him in there.  Instead what I found was comical and a testimony to his size.  He had moved our garage refrigerator about 3' from the wall and moved the garage freezer about 1' from the wall.  I guess he couldn't get the door of the refrigerator to open, but I'm sure he could smell the soft drinks left over from a cook-out a few days ago.

As we drove down the hill toward school there was more evidence of our visitor's late night romp.  Two of our split rails from our fence lay splintered in the tall prairie grass where he had clearly rolled around for a time before traveling across the pasture leaving a wake of downed grass.  It is clear from the directness of the path that he was focused on the bags and bins of trash that had been put out for collection.  I wasn't surprised to see several bags torn open at the bottom of the hill, but I was a little surprised when SugarBear pointed out the trail of debris up the side of the hill across the street.  It seems he might have taken a few bags along for a snack.  What a mess!

It was only later when my darling husband arrived home that he pointed out the mud rub marks on the side of the refrigerator at just about JellyBean's height and the clear impression of a bear paw just above the marks that it all become very real.  I had convinced myself that the bear had not been that large and that I was inflating his size just like any good fishing story.  It took my darling and I both pushing on the refrigerator to get it back into it's place.  I wonder if that bear has any idea how strong he is when motivated by sweet treats.

As for tonight we have everything put away again, but I am tempted to set my alarm for 3am just to see if he is a creature of habit or not.  Do you think we will see him again?  I'm going to go check the doors again.

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