Thursday, October 14, 2010

Johnny's Bearicade

It's been a contest of wits and we've been losing. Letting Polly the horse clean up all the apples on the ground led to the bear, deprived of easy apples, destroying the dog food container and eating half the dog food. Moving the dog food container into the back room resulted in the dog food automatic feeder, hung on the inside of the llama fence not far from where the ill-fated dog food container used to sit, being hauled out across the top of the fence and dismantled. The bear, after ripping the feeder apart, ate all the dog food. This was the scene that greeted us the morning of October 10.

Johnny repaired the feeder and we now keep it in the back room at night, bringing it back out during the day. That's okay, but having the feeder plus the dog food sacks in the back room was a bit much. So Johnny created a new dog food container out of an old steel garbage can and secured the lid with heavy hinges and bolts. We put it back where it was outside, convenient for filling the feeder. So far, so good. Pictured is the repaired dog feeder and the newly created dog food tin.

(Obviously, our guard llamas aren't much help against bears and the bear is either unable to read or not impressed.)

We worried that the bear, deprived of expensive dog food, would go after the cheaper chicken food inside an easily accessible garbage can in the chicken house. So every night, Johnny puts his bearicade in place. It is a heavy sheet of plywood held upright by a clamp attached by rope to the garden tractor inside the chicken house/garden shed. To date, the bear has not attacked the bearicade.

For two nights, we have seen no bear scat or vomit around our house. Hopefully, he has moved on. Before moving on, however, he found our bee hive. Several years ago, wild bees took over a wood duck nest box we had hung high on a tree.

Their comb and honey grew so heavy that it finally pulled the box off the tree and into the little creek below. I drug it out of the creek and we hauled it up on the bank, out of flood reach. The bees have been living happily there ever since. Until the bear found them. Bears love honey.

We are not the only ones in the neighborhood with bear problems. Our nearest neighbors across the arboretum fence had a mother/mother-in-law come visit and camp in their yard. She intended to camp for two nights. But the morning after the first night, she woke to find the food from her two coolers, or what little was left of her food, strung all over the yard. She moved indoors.

Mostly, the neighborhood bear delinquents hit garbage cans. We have no outdoor garbage cans (since we compost or feed the chickens/llamas/sheep/goats all leftovers) but we keep dog food and chicken food in garbage cans. Here's hoping the bearicade holds.


  1. Famous Last Words. After writing the above blog, I went out to do evening chores... in the dark. As I headed from goat barn to horse barn, my lantern began dimming. Once these things start to go, they go fast. I might make it to the horse barn, but I would not make it back. So I returned to goat barn and retrieved a second, brighter lantern. I'm so glad I did! I saw the eye shine of three deer in the orchard as I walked over, which turned out to be the usual doe and twin fawns, now very grown up. They melted into the trees as I approached. Jessie Anne, my watch horse, was a little nervous as I fed but settled down to eating. So I wasn't worried. Very. I turned off the light in the horse barn after turning my lantern back on and started toward the goat barn through the orchard. Hearing something to my left, I shone my light off the path in that direction. It was a bear. It slowly walked away into the brush and disappeared. This bear was a smaller version of the big male that we saw outside our bedroom window. I called Johnny to see if he wanted to scare it off with a blast from his shotgun that he's been keeping by the back door for just such a purpose. Johnny was in bed. "I wouldn't worry; when the apples are gone, the bears will be gone." Of course he wouldn't worry, he doesn't traipse through the dark at night and run into bears. Both lanterns are now plugged in, recharging.

  2. One time we were camping out west somewhere. We had a tent and grandpa's old big blue pick-up. We went into a campground and there was a hand written sign on the entrance that said "Bear In Camp". That night mom and dad got the bright idea to clean out the coolers, so our entire campsite smelled like food. Then we sent mom out into the forest with all the food garbage from the cooler.

    At bedtime they decided maybe sleeping in a tent was a bad idea, so mom and dad slept in the truck and I slept in the bed (with the cap on). Mom tied the window of the truck closed with a metal coat hanger and handed me a cast iron frying pan. If the bear came in I was supposed to make a racket so they would wake up. They'd drive the truck away.. meanwhile I could beat the bear with the frying pan.

    It's a wonder I made it to 14 much less 31.


  3. Well, that beats my bear stories all to heck, Michelle. Thanks for the laughs! Sure glad that bear didn't test your mom's plan...

  4. Michelle, you ARE lucky you lived to 14. A famous Japanese photographer, known for a life-time of work with bears, decided to sleep in his tent when room ran out at an inn. Even more foolishly, he decided to COOK inside his tent. That night, as he lay sleeping, he was killed by a bear!!! So, Linda, PLEASE BE CAREFUL.... Frying pans simply won't cut it!!!

  5. I don't know what kind of bears they have in Japan but they sure don't sound peaceful. Grizzlies are not always peaceful but they don't live where I do. Our Black Bears would have to be pushed pretty hard to attack a human. They do their best to stay out of our way... even when I traipse through their apple orchard at night. However y'all can rest easier because I'm having to change my chore times to keep my horse from being locked up at night next to the bear orchard. I will feed the horses then let them out before dark. Mr. Smith, who usually spends the night in his big pen next to the orchard, was not amused by the bear last night and had a mild colic today.