The X-Urbs. This is a term that I have heard in regard to the interface between urban life and the wilderness. It connotes that people are encroaching on the wilderness, often without realization of how they are effecting the flora and fona. When we built our cabin a couple of decade ago, our intent was to leave the woods for the native animals. As we developed our gardens, a little fencing and negotiating was in order. In addition to planting food for us, we planted fruit-bearing trees and berries outside the fence for the critters. We do not feed them corn or other food sources that they would not otherwise have access to, nor the digestive systems to process (corn can actually kill turkey or deer in winter because the enzymes in their guts changes to digest dry leaves and sticks, not high glucose content feed).
Though we were brought up on Dinsey-minded concepts of the benevolence of nature (e.g. Bambi, Goldielocks and the Three Bears), nature is not kind. I had a discussion with a rattle snake one summer. I apologized for stepping too close to where he rested off from our driveway and agreed to return within the fence. I do not fault the rattle snake for hissing at me. It was just being a rattle snake.
Bella is a natural hunter and killer. Twice, she had done-in skunks that slipped into the yard, without getting sprayed. Akita were bread in Japan to be bear hunters. Around here, Blueticks and Redbones are ‘coon and bear hunting dogs. They track the bears and tree them.
Tippy is a herding dog. That is her father’s border collie heritage. She rounds up the goats, ducks, squirrels, or any other critter that she can out-run.
We also have a black cat, Maggie. She lives in the woodshed. She loves to wander by the sliding glass door at night, scratch or meow, then slip away while Bella and Tippy yelp and run about the yard at 1 a.m. This is our nightly ritual. We might as well use the bathroom while they are outside. Then back to bed for all.
About two weeks ago, Bella and Tippy were up around 2 a.m. barking in a rather ferocious manner. They bolted out, then came back in quickly. We all went to bed again. A couple of days later, I noticed that the fence was bent down in a couple of places. A bear was about.
I had been in the process of fixing the electric fence from winter. The plow pushes against it, breaking insulators. The goats get their horns under the wire and pull it out into the field. And, we moved the front gate over about ten feet. I had not gotten each section fixed. Now, I have entry and exit points to address.
The next Tuesday, again about mid-night, the dogs were up with the same flare. They charged out toward the woodshed, then back. We heard tippy cry out, unlike her usual bark. She headed up to the deck, while Bella went to the front porch. Then we saw the bear run by.
We quickly brought both dogs inside, and turned on all the outside lights. I ran out to open the front gate, though by morning light we deduced that the bear took out the fence behind the woodshed and headed into the forest. We noticed Tippy had a gash on her left side.
A series of phone calls to the local animal hospital and we were off for the mid-night run… once we figured out how to get Tippy across the 100+ feet distance to the garage. Dr. Tom assess the 8-inch skin flap wound on her left, and several other puncher wounds on her right side. Sedation, two hours of surgery, 12 feet of suture thread and 30 staple and laser treatments patched her up.
Now for recovery. Keeping a lab-border collie calm. Getting her up for gentle walks. Cleaning her wounds. Thanks to our animal-loving neighbors, we have folks to check on her during the day. Follow up visits for removing drains, assessing healing, and more laser treatments.
I do not fault the bear for being a bear. This time of year the bears come off from their rocky dens on the top of the mountain seeking the early food sources of Spring. Though Linda and I disagree on the size of the bear (I saw a 150 lbs yearling out to establish it territory, Linda says 200 lbs sow, but I have never had a reason to pick up either a 150 lbs or 200 lbs bear to know to make such an estimate), it was being a bear. Neither do we fault Tippy for rounding up something in her yard.
Bella was the one which knew that this was not the size animal to approach. While Tippy is recovering, Bella seems the most upset. She sleeps in the doorway of our room now, letting no one come or go at night. She stands guard at the front door while we are at work. When we go about the garden or outside the fence, she follows us closely. Each time that we have taken Tippy to the vet for follow-up visit, Bella has broke out through the fence (more repairs).
As with most conflict, each party is being itself. The conflict is less about the interaction of the parties, but with each behaving as he, she, or it is inclined.
One of the local folks asked if I had my gun read to deal with the bear. I reply, “No, peanut butter.” He appeared puzzled. I explained that my approach to animals was not to kill anything that I disagreed with, but to find a means to keeping some distance. With the electric fence charged and running again. I took small strips of aluminum foil, wrapped them around the wire, and wiped a bit of peanut butter on it. One lick (bear or deer) will suggest that going the other way is a better plan. No need to kill a bear for being a bear.