For a few years, I lived in the foothills of the Winding Stair Mountains. From time to time a hungry black bear would wander down from his home in the heights.
I never saw any bears but I observed the evidence of their visit. One year was particularly a bear year.
Friends driving by saw a bear crossing the highway near our mailbox and sent a postcard to warn me. I freaked out when I found his huge footprints in the sandy soil at the bottom of our driveway. Whoever said black bears are small…well, he wasn’t comparing them to people.
About that time, a neighbor dropped in to tell us a bear had visited his cabin and torn the water-catching system all to bits. He tracked him to his mom’s place where Bruin had found her 35-gallon bird seed barrel, chewed it open and emptied it.
His mother was very fond of wild birds and enjoyed feeding them on winter weekends when she could get out to her cabin. Little did she know she was feeding bears!
During the same season, an acquaintance told me she had a bear visiting every day, eating up the sweet horse feed her husband had overstocked and stored under a tarp. After the feed was all gone, the bear went away.
I took extra precautions that year. I never went more than a few yards from the house without a gun. I led the dog to the tracks in the sand and gave him a stern lecture about the animal associated with the scent. I stopped putting out suet.
Now I am living smack in the middle of a huge city and there are no bears. I still think about the bear year when I fill the bird feeders.
I figure much of the birdseed won’t make it into bird tummies. Depending on what I throw out, I feed skunks, possums, raccoons, armadillos, squirrels, mice and gray foxes. There are semi-feral cats hungry enough to eat cornbread after dark. I’ve seen the foxes licking dirt for crumbs of stale bread, cooked rice and pie crust. Apple cores and corn cobs, thrown over the fence for the deer, disappear overnight.
I don’t suppose it is my job to determine who eats what or how much. They are all God’s creatures, even little black bears.