We were expecting to hear the bear trying to get into the dog food barrel during the night, since Johnny had put two bungie cords across the lid, very taut. Sure enough, about 2:30 a.m., Johnny got up to use the bathroom and heard something banging in front of the shop. Both dogs were barking. Johnny came and woke me up. We both straggled around looking for a flashlight. Finally found one and shone it out the kitchen window. No bear in sight in front of the shop. No dog food barrel (heavy plastic garbage can) in sight either.
Johnny figured the bear had rolled the barrel out of sight under the big linden tree between chicken house and shop. So he bravely went out the back door to look. I sensibly waited inside. Johnny came back and said it wasn't there. Since he survived and saw no bear, and I finally remembered where I'd left the big light I use to get to the barn in the dark (ever since running into the bear weeks ago), I came out and joined him. Together we searched all around the house and barn and shop and up the driveway. No dog food barrel anywhere. The bear must have picked it up and carried it off... an unnerving thought.
Next morning (this morning), after I did my pre-breakfast chores of letting the chickens out, feeding them, and feeding llamas and sheep, I hiked out through the arboretum to look for where the bear must surely have dropped the barrel. Both dogs accompanied me. I could not tell that anything had walked, much less drug a heavy object, through the dewy grass. I had convinced myself that I would find the barrel in the bear's picnic spot... a place under the ponderosa pines where the grass has been matted down by some heavy creature and there are many bits of elk hair and bones chewed by something with very large teeth. The neighbor had shot a spike elk some weeks back and apparently left the hide and bones where the bear found and drug them to our side of the fence.
No barrel in the bear picnic area. But Shirley Puppy was happy to lead me onward into the woods and to the river via the path that isn't a path where she always tells me a predator has gone. Still no barrel. As I was walking back up to the arboretum, Johnny called my cell phone and said, "I found it."
The barrel was under the pear tree outside our bedroom window... on the neighbor's side of the fence. Johnny couldn't see if the lid was still on or not from where he was standing in the driveway. I walked back up through the arboretum to the house and joined Johnny, then crawled through the path where the bear had evidently gone. The fence, it turned out, was raised up from the ground... the bear has been going under the fence to glean the pears on both sides.
In the bushes on the other side was the barrel, lid and bungie cords still firmly attached. From our side of the fence, the barrel appeared to be intact. However, when I arrived at the other side, the picture was different. The bear had ripped the side out and exposed the two half sacks of feed within. There wasn't much more food gone than the day before so we must have scared it off when we were searching before daylight.
Johnny figures the bear drug the barrel by one handle. There is a little dried blood by one handle so perhaps the bear cut his gum in the process. Lots of scratches on the barrel so he could also have manhandled it (bearhandled it?) across the driveway, through the bushes, and under the fence. He must have ripped it apart over there as there is no spilled dog food except in the barrel itself.
The photos tell the story. This was a thick, sturdy, plastic can, not a wimpy one.
I have moved the two, somewhat mangled, half sacks into the back room off the kitchen for now. I'll lock the back door tonight. Johnny is looking for a metal trash can with a tight lid today while he's in town. I really would like to keep the dog food out by the dog feeder, where it is convenient. But this bear seems to love Innova large breed adult dog food and this bear is, indeed, a large breed.
The game continues.