Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Guest Post By Michelle Mather

In case you didn’t recognize it, the title is a line from “The Wizard of Oz”. At least, I think that’s where I remember it from. Dorothy is traveling through the forest and is chanting “lions and tigers and bears… oh my!” over and over again. As a kid, I remember wandering around my suburban neighbourhood chanting that phrase.

We’ve been seeing a lot of wildlife around here lately. No lions or tigers, but one evening we had two large black bears in our backyard. It was right at dusk and I happened to glance out the back kitchen window as I walked past. I noticed something black in our patch of raspberries and my mind immediately recognized it as something that didn’t belong there. At first I assumed Cam had moved something in to the patch… a rain barrel perhaps, but as I pondered it further, I realized it was no rain barrel, and in fact there were TWO black objects out there.

Bear Cub and Mama Bear – at dusk so I had to lighten the photo – not a great shot

The raspberry patch is about 20 yards from our back door. I finally recognized the big black things as a mama bear and her cub. She was grazing on grass while the cub was busy checking out the immature raspberries, probably scoping out a meal for him/herself in a few weeks time!

I told Cam to look out the back window and I immediately went to the front door and insisted that our dog come inside. Luckily he hadn’t spotted the bears and even though he seemed confused as to why I was insisting that he come in on a perfectly nice evening, he obliged.

Cam grabbed our camera and stood out on the back step. A couple of the cats were still outside and one of them was just a blur as she flew in through the back door. The two youngest cats were both sitting on the back step, apparently mesmerized by these large black creatures that were ambling about the yard. I tried to encourage the two cats to come in but they were determined to just sit on the back step where they could watch the action close to the safety of the cat door so that they could zip inside if the bears got too close.

You can see the glowing eyes of this bear standing behind the row of raspberry bushes

We watched the bears for a few minutes. I’m sure the bears knew we were there, but they seemed unconcerned by our presence. Eventually they moved along, out behind our small horse barn and along the back of our paddock. At that point the two cows in my paddock heard the bears and they came running over. The cows, who belong to my neighbour Alyce, are big and black. The bears were big and black. The cows ran over towards the fence closest to the bears and began mooing at the bears. I’m not sure if they have ever seen bears before, or if perhaps they just assumed they were two other black cows, but they were quite excited by these visitors!

We could no longer see the bears but we could hear the sound of them as they moseyed back into the forest. The cows followed their progress along the length of the paddock fence and then ended up in the far corner of the paddock still watching intently into the woods as they continued to moo at the bears.

Daisy and her daughter Charlotte – they are “Dexter” cows

In the twelve years we’ve lived here, we haven’t seen very many bears and so we are still excited by a visit like this. We know that they are around and in the course of conversations with our local friends, we hear about their encounters. Of course some of our neighbours prefer dead bears to live ones, so we have to be careful who we share our sightings with!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we’ve seen a lot of wildlife lately. Just the night before the bear visit a deer stood in our back yard about 10 feet from our living room window. Cam and I happened to be watching a DVD at the time. The windows were open and the deer stood there, staring intently towards the window as if he/she could hear the sounds of our movie coming out of the window. I think he/she wondered what was making the strange sounds. And just a couple of weeks ago, our neighbours left our place and spotted a moose not too far along the road from here. We also have a family of red foxes in a den built in to the side of the road across from our place. This is the fourth or fifth year that we’ve been able to watch a family of fox kits grow up. One year my daughter Katie and I were able to get close enough to take some great pictures and video footage of them.

One of the kits from last year’s family

Living with wildlife close by is one of the best parts of country life for me. Of course, I should really change my tune and start chanting “Moose and bears and foxes, oh my!”

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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