the way out here

‘Honey, what was that?’

Posted 4/28/21

Bump. Thump. Clatter.

You’re lying in bed, trying to scare up a pleasant dream when you hear this disturbance outside. If you’re a married man in the country, the next thing …

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the way out here

‘Honey, what was that?’


Bump. Thump. Clatter.

You’re lying in bed, trying to scare up a pleasant dream when you hear this disturbance outside. If you’re a married man in the country, the next thing you’ll likely hear is your wife asking, “Honey, what was that?” But if you’ve lived out here a few years and it’s springtime, you will likely roll your eyes at the noise and declare in a flat tone, “Bears.”

Spring is, of course, the time the bears become more active. A common misconception is that, when hibernating, the bears in our area sleep in their dens and are not seen throughout the winter. More accurately, however, bears only expend as much as energy as they are able to consume on a daily basis. When it becomes too difficult to find the food to replace the energy they use, they become more inactive and stay closer to their dens; they do sleep longer, but they don’t simply go into an indeterminate stasis until spring. What’s more, while bears are scavengers and omnivores, they tend to be opportunists, returning to reliable locations where food is easy to obtain and confrontation is at a minimum. Dumpsters and garbage cans tend to be hotspots of opportunity as they can be found from year to year and, much like an elephant, a hungry bear never forgets. This brings me to my next point: making bad memories.

As much as bears have the ability to catalog good memories of chicken carcasses and junk food caches of past honey holes, so too do they remember the times they’ve been driven out of a dumpster by the clamor of an angry human, whether armed strictly with noise or measures more threatening.

I’d like to preface my remarks by saying that the best bear deterrent is a lack of ease for them to gain access to your trash or other food scraps. While I realize the truly committed bears will learn your tricks and creatively solve the problems you have set between them and the goodies, it never hurts to take the proactive approach. One great tip I would recommend for your trash would be to get a large hitch pin, half-inch in thickness and at least six inches long. If you have a garbage bin with a hinged lid, simply drill a hole in the front where it opens and closes and secure your pin there. My wife and I have done this for just over a year now and the few bears that return to our garbage have been unsuccessful in getting the can open. Minor inconveniences can often deter a lazy bear. Should they still come around, perhaps for your bird feeder or other grains or food intended for livestock etc., you may have to resort to giving them a healthy reminder that those things don’t belong to them. A 12 or 20 gauge shotgun is a great tool for bumping back against the bump in the night. Before you load up though, take the time to get some rock salt rounds with low velocity and small length shells: 2 3/4 inch is your standard birdshot round. You aren’t trying to kill the bear or even seriously hurt them. Rock salt in this small load is best aimed at the rump of the bear as they scurry away. Please don’t aim for their face; this can lead to complications for the bear that could both confuse them, cause them to be more aggressive towards you or cause them harm that can lead to trouble seeing, smelling, or hearing. A shot in the rear is just like a spank; it will sting a little but will heal just fine and give the bear a reason not to come back. If a bear goes up a tree, as they often do when spooked, just leave them and go back inside. Shooting at a treed bear doesn’t send them the same message, as they are already cornered and have nowhere to retreat to from the tree.

The way out here, we’re all just scraping for a meal, bears included. While we have no obligation to give up our resources to them, it’s important to handle these situations in a safe and responsible way. After all, bears play a role in the food chain as well and there are legal seasons for when to harvest them. If you feel uncomfortable approaching one in the dark, then by all means don’t. But sometimes, the way we live out here consists of getting up when something goes bump in the night and stepping out into the moonlight to remind our furry neighbors that respect is a two-way street.


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