The bear facts

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 19, 2022

I’ll be frank.


I love bears.

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I’ll be more frank.


I love bears when viewed from a distance, on our critter cam, or on Youtube videos.


So when a friend moved into a beautiful area of North Carolina with a gobsmacking view of the mountains spread out behind her home, I playfully brought up the subject of the black bears that are quite prolific in our area.


“Bears? What do you mean bears!” she had said at the time, alarmed.


“We’re in the mountains, and the bears go over the mountains,” I explained.




I couldn’t resist: “To see what they could see.”


Not knowing that particular child’s nursery rhyme, my joke fell flat, but I assured her what all of us in bear country say to any newcomer: they’re timid creatures, give them a wide berth, put away your bird feeders, secure your trash bins and if one gets too close, make a loud noise, or bang some pots and pans. Remember, I added, they’re more afraid of us than we are of them, and less than one person a year is killed by them.


Except her bear encounter—three encounters, I should say, in the period of one week—was not a warm fuzzy. The first occurred, days, and I mean, days, after speaking with her about them, when she was driving up towards her house. To the right, she was startled to see a mother and three cubs in her pear tree. Lowering her car window and slowing to observe the thievery, the mother left the tree, and on her hind legs to get a better view, proceeded to walk towards my friend, getting quite near her vehicle, until turning back to the buffet.


“Holy Cow!” was my reaction when this tale was relayed to me. And a second “Holy Cow!” was uttered when the cubs appeared again in the tree, resulting in my friend banging pots and pans to chase them away.


“That was brave!” I said.


“I want those pears!” she said defiantly.


I should add that this pear tree has now been chopped down as of the end of the week, as she stood at the top of her driveway to wait to meet a couple of friends for dinner, her dog, who she’d allowed out for his evening business, came flying towards her from around the side of the house—near the tree—with the bear on its tail. Swiping at its tail. Running to ‘mom’ for comfort, the dog crouched down at the feet of my friend—let’s call her, Ruby. Ruby’s a nice name and not often heard these days…and now Ruby found herself, a former city girl, being threatened by a growling sow bear that paced an aggressive circle around her. All the advice that I, and any black bear website gives, goes right out the window when you’re standing at the top of your driveway and an aggressive bear is circling you, over and over. No pots and pans within reach. The bear was, she later told me, so close she could smell its breath and that breath was foul.


Ruby did the only thing she could do. She began to scream at the top of her lungs and has a scream that would cast her in any horror movie. She screamed until her friends whom she was meeting for dinner, appeared and, horrified, also began to yell to scare away the bear. After what seemed to be an eternity, the bear left but the trauma of the experience vibrated over the following days.


We later learned that her residence—as are several other residences in the community—are indeed this particular bear’s territory and as hibernation begins in the winter, bears, in general, are gorging themselves on 20,000 calories a day, beforehand. That’s a lot of pears. Although now, no more pears on her property might mean no more bears.


Undeterred, Ruby told me that the following morning, as the fingers of that rosy dawn penetrated through the mist that rose over her meadow, she was determined to revel in the country life of the mountains for which she had worked so hard.


“I had my coffee on the front porch,” she said. “With a pistol in one hand and a can of bear spray in the other.”


Welcome, Ruby!