Grin and Bear It

Wildlife encounters are an inevitable part of country living.  Since our move to the North Georgia woods, most of these encounters have involved six- and eight-legged members of the phylum Arthropoda.  Much to my dismay, I might add – I have a touch of arachnophobia.  Who wouldn’t, when they have to share the land with funnel web, wolf, and mouse spiders?  Don’t Google those… trust me!

So, it’s always a pleasure when we spot a critter that is not a creeper.  Besides the ubiquitous squirrels who have nothing better to do than pick fights with each other, we have rabbits, deer, turkeys, turkey vultures, possums, various woodpeckers, many different songbirds, lizards, and all sorts of snakes, frogs, and turtles.  We’ve also spotted a gray fox, a newt, and a salamander so far!  While not a complete surprise (we do live in the woods, after all), these peeks at wildlife always enthrall us.  How cool is it to see these creatures right in our backyard, and live among them?

My favorite find so far – the juvenile red eft of an eastern newt!

Early one weekday morning this week, Mr. Fluster and I were sitting around the dining table and I was sipping my daily cup of coffee.  As we’re chatting, he looked out the open window behind me, and said simply, “Bear.”

I quietly turned around to see a young black bear, maybe 15 feet away from the back window, gingerly picking his way through the brush behind our house.  I actually don’t know if it was a male or not, but let’s just say it was a boy.  Once my brain registered that this was a BEAR and I needed to grab the camera, he was already making his way away from the house.  I ran through the house, cursing my lack of preparation the whole way, while my husband tried to rouse the young’ns so that they too could see our first Georgia bear.

Camera in hand, I snuck out the back porch, still in my slippers because the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet.  The young bruin was already 20 yards into the trees.  I called out, “Hey, bear!” to get his attention and maybe get a photo.  He turned around, craned his neck and pricked up his fuzzy ears, and my heart fluttered.  As soon as he spotted me, he spun around and trotted off.  The only photo I managed to get is a blurry shot of his butt.

The kids have named the bear Bob.  Bob is a fine name for a bear.

While they do exist in the area – there are an estimated 5,100 bears in Georgia – it was still surprising to see one so close!  Bob headed east, to a 90 acre patch of woods immediately behind our property.

Not Bob, but he was about the same size.  Image Credit

I went back inside to finish my coffee so that I could be a fully functioning adult for the day.  Fifteen minutes later, the farm dogs showed up at the front door.  They had been out on their daily rounds, cavorting with the neighborhood dogs, and missed the excitement.  I met them outside, headed to the coop to let the chickens out for the day.  Allie Jo (black lab) followed me back to the coop while Molly (yellow lab) begged for scratchies from the kids on the front porch.

As we crossed the path Bob the Bear had taken not too long ago, Allie Jo picked up his scent and circled around taking deep whiffs of the ground, tail on alert.  Her hackles raised, she started barking up a storm towards the woods and presumably, Bob.  Barking, she checked back with me a few times, and turned and started barking towards the house.  Immediately Molly came tearing around the corner, and without so much as a sniff for confirmation, took off after the bear with her afterburners on.  That dog can run like the wind!  Allie Jo ran full-speed with her for a little while then fell back, letting her faster sister take the lead.

They didn’t get too far until I called them back.  The bear seemed sufficiently spooked by my presence, and I told the girls that we didn’t need to agitate it further.  This declaration was met by huffs of disapproval, but brief wags of their tails told me they understood even if they didn’t like it.  A doggie biscuit helped ease the disappointment of Letting The Intruder Get Away.

This bear sighting was a great reminder for us to take some precautions.  We already store the dog & chicken food locked away, but we’ve also started removing the feeder from the coop at night.  As much as we love watching the local birds, we’ve opted not to have any bird feeders.  Any kitchen scraps are thrown in the compost, which is a little too close to the house for my liking.  Next spring we’ll start a new spot down by the garden area.  We also took this opportunity to re-educate the kids on bear safety.  Overall, we feel very blessed to have sighted a bear in our backyard, but we hope Bob & his friends stay on the other side of the hill!

Image Credit



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