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June 15, 2010

Bear With Me

Yay, I'm finally back online! A couple of days after my last post, the power cord for my laptop died, and it's taken almost a month to get a replacement. I was able to use my iPod and my son's computer to update my Facebook page occasionally, but Blogger didn't agree with my son's 10 year old hand-me-down Mac, so I wasn't able to post here.

There's a lot to tell you about, but I'll start with the most exciting news first. 

We almost lost our flock to a predator at the beginning of the month. Those of you following me on Facebook have already heard a bit about this, but now I can share photos.

We don't have a lot of things that prey on chickens here aside from hawks, eagles, and the occasional dog (we don't even have raccoons or skunks), but just over a month ago, a bear showed up in the area. Normally this wouldn't be much of a problem, but this particular bear has developed a taste for poultry and has raided more than half a dozen coops, despite the fact that it's prime Salmonberry season and there's no shortage of other things for him to eat at the moment.

I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago and happened to glance out at the chicken coop and noticed that the window trim was torn off and laying on the ground.


After taking a closer look it became obvious that somebody with muddy paws was the culprit.


Notice how he tried the knob and the latch, but didn't touch the door anywhere else? This guy's a pro.


After a few minutes of panic and trying to decide whether it was safe to go out and check on them, I finally saw a couple of the hens hop up onto the window perch. Okay, so at least it wasn't a total loss.

I could hear that the neighbor's dog was out and not going ballistic, so I figured the bear was long gone, and I eventually mustered up enough courage to venture out for a better look. Closer inspection revealed that he also tried to gain access through one of the other windows, as well as the pop door which will eventually provide access to the chicken tractor. Thankfully the hardware cloth that we stapled over the windows and under the sheeting kept him from gaining entry and everyone inside was fine (if a little rattled). Not that he didn't try - the mesh was stretched and covered in muddy paw prints. I'm so glad that we went overboard and built the coop with the expectation that we might one day have to deal with predators trying to get in, I can't imagine what I might have had to deal with that morning if we hadn't.

Local authorities have been trying to capture this fellow for weeks now, but he (she?) has proven to be a very smart bear (hey, he knows how a door works, for goodness sake), and has so far avoided the traps that they've set. I wonder if they've considered making it look more like a chicken coop. In the meantime, we've reinforced the coop (the trim is now screwed on tight, and the windows have secure latches), and we're being extra careful about walking on the park trails. 

Hopefully he'll make his way to another location soon, either on his own or with the help of conservation officers.


8 comments:

Frugal Life UK said...

Brilliant - all I have to worry about is seagulls! Bears - oh my goodness!!!

Laura Grace said...

Hi Cheryl,

I've missed your blog lately. It pops up without even requiring a subscription because I have a Google alert on Free Range Learning (the title of my new book). Interestingly, you and I have so much in common like homeschooling, living green in the country, Scandinavian-Scottish ancestry, well, it's just great to find a kindred spirit.

jonzie said...

Get a couple of these fellas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrenean_Mastiff
:)

tree said...

That's so crazy! We just had a bear nosing around our chickens too a couple weeks ago. We've lived here 10 years and never seen one...then one morning my chickens are going nuts and i'm standing there trying to account for them all and look up and see a bear staring at me! So scary! Didn't stop me from running inside and grabbing my camera though!
http://theenchantedtree.blogspot.com/2010/05/unwelcome-visitor.html

So glad to see you posting again! i just love your blog!

Annie said...

Whoa! So glad there wasn't more damage!

Cheryl said...

Frugal - I know! Crazy, isn't it?

Laura - It sounds like we do have a lot in common; Free Range Learning is also the name of my other blog!

Jonzie - Good idea, especially considering our dog was snoozing away about 50 feet from the coop at the time! A friend also suggested a Maremma, though I'm not sure we could afford the food bill!

Tree - Great photos! I don't know if I would have had my wits about me enough to think about getting the camera!

Annie - Thanks, me too!

Mo said...

We have neighbors that insist on feeding the birds year round which attracts the Bears. They've become quite a nuisance this year and very bold - had one park itself on a neighbors porch trapping them outside. The game department summed it up like this, "Fed Bear = Dead Bear" as they don't have the resources to relocate the bears which are already over populated according to the State wildlife biologist.

In Alaska we had a black lab that was excellent at alerting us when a Coastal Brown walked through Camp. Awesome creatures. Sure changes your perspective about where you are in the food chain...

Cheryl said...

Mo - You're so right about it reminding you where you stand in the food chain!
So far they're promising to relocate rather than destroy this bear (not the case with previous bears, unfortunately), but I'm worried that the longer he goes on like this, the less likely that will be. That being said, he's been keeping a very low profile lately.

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