Bears. Bears. Everwheres. I’ve seen and heard more reports about bears this year than in the twelve years we have lived in the Shenandoah Valley. And they seem to be more bold and brazen than in years past. Last week, a friend of mine was held hostage in her own home for three hours by a bear staging a protest demanding more birdseed. I met the largest bear I have ever seen in the middle of our driveway a few days ago. I’m pretty sure he was the perpetrator of the great cable caper that left us bereft of Internet service and TV for five days last week. A bear dug up and totally destroyed our cable junction box in anticipation of a yummy snack of bee larvae that were in a bumblebee nest in the ground under the box.My neighbor had an encounter with the same bear last week as the bear sauntered out of the woods and walked within 20 feet of the deck where she was sitting, sending her scurrying into her house.
I would imagine that this bear would have to be 4-5 years old. He’s pretty large. It was 4-5 years ago that a momma bear raised a family of triplet cubs in the neighborhood. Could this bear be one of those cubs, now grown into a beautiful sleek adult bear? I remember the first time I met the cubs. It was a cold day in March. They had to be just recently out of the den, they were that small.
I was on my way to work and just as I rounded the curve at the top of our drive, I saw a mother bear and 2 cubs crossing the drive right in front of the car. I stopped to let them pass and to watch them for as long as I could see them. These were tiny little cubs. They only looked to be a couple of weeks old at the most. They were a little unsteady on their feet, wobbling as they walked.
They crossed into my neighbor’s yard. He has about an acre of cleared woods bordered by several acres of dense natural woods. I watched as the Mom and 2 cubs crossed the cleared area and disappeared into the thick woods. I was just about to drive on when I saw a 3rd cub come dashing across the road in hot pursuit, tottering as he ran. But his family was out of sight, and Bosco didn’t know which way they went. So he found a small tree and tried to climb it. He didn’t have good climbing skills, or perhaps his claws weren’t yet long enough, but he tried to climb the tree 3 or 4 times and kept slipping down. Finally he got purchase on the trunk about 12 inches off the ground and just hung there.
This was an early spring day. It was cool, and I had the windows up and the heat and radio on in the car. I sat there and watched this little wayward cub for about 5 minutes. I could see his mouth opening and closing, so I turned off the car and opened the windows so I could hear him. He was making little cries that sounded like a kitten. I wondered how he was going to get reunited with his siblings, and was determined to stay to make sure he was recovered.
After about 5 minutes, I saw Mom and the 2 cubs exit the woods from the same spot they had disappeared. She probably had been standing there watching her errant son and finally marched out to retrieve him. She walked all the way over to the little tree he was still clinging to and stopped for a moment as if to say, “Would you keep up and quit being naughty? You’re worrying me to death”. The little one slid down the small tree and trailed along behind Mom and his 2 siblings and disappeared back into the woods.
We saw them several times that summer and spoke often with our neighbors who also had occasional visitations. It seemed that every time they were spotted, there was always one cub that was lagging behind and getting into mischief.
We were fortunate to see them again as we were coming home from a llama hike one day and had a camera with us. This is a shot of Mom and the triplets on Turtle Lane. You can see Bosco lagging behind as usual. They had aged by a few weeks in this photo. Notice the sign: “Slow…Children at play”.