Bear wars

Summer, or whatever you want to call the cool uncool monsoon season we just experienced, is almost done.

Summer, or whatever you want to call the cool uncool monsoon season we just experienced, is almost done. The cool temperatures of the last two and a half months guaranteed that the Saskatoon berry bushes would be busted. The abnormally enduring high waters in all our rivers combined with abysmally low numbers of pink and chum salmon ensured that dramatically low numbers of fish carcasses reached the river banks. Other than a strong suggestion that climate is a-changin’, what does this all mean? It means that there will be bears in town. You can’t blame the bruins for making like homo sapiens and heading for urban environs. With a dearth of the aforementioned feed, the price of apples, garbage, and almost every other digestible substance soars on the ursine stock exchange, guaranteeing that the bears will be back walking our streets. A bear is spotted on Halliwell. A relative is seen strolling across the playground on the South Side. Jim tells me he saw one clawing over the chain link that surrounds the park where his mobile home rests, and I have a five footer in my backyard. I’m sure I know the brute. I’m almost certain that he’s one of the cubs that was shown the way here by the sow that arrived in the neighborhood some eight or 10 years ago to dine on garbage. When she first appeared, Karen and I would turn off the TV and open the living room curtains and watch bear TV, with exhilarating episodes like Climb the Front Yard Willow, and Cavort About the Front Lawn While Eating Trash. The return of the former cub was heralded by the demolition of the expensive squirrel-proof bird feeder that Karen had bought me for Xmas. A few days after that criminal act, Karen looked out the back window and saw the perpetrator saunter across the backyard, pluck a woodpecker feeder from its perch and bite through it as if it were a cob of corn. We’re at war, I said, to no one in particular, as I examined the remnants. A week passed until Pawsome’s spasmodic, barely audible barks alerted me to a presence under the feral apple tree growing on the margin of my property. I scrambled for my bear banger and discharged it. The flare rocketed to a spot just above his head and discharged with a bang that made rifle report seem like the sound of a BB gun. The bear lit out like a thoroughbred. We marked his passage by the barking dogs along Westview Ave. Someone else must have noted his passage, for the next day a tall Dutch conservation officer was baiting a trap across from my house. A decaying rump roast hung in the back of the trap. Rotting salmon lay on its floor. I felt for the bear. He was in need of correction, not terminal discipline, which, I knew, was the inevitable outcome of his entrapment. Two days later the bear made a close inspection of the trap, ignored its meaty promises and shook it so violently that the door snapped shut. After this metaphorical, furry middle finger, he ambled off. After a week of fruitless trapping, the CO service removed the cage. He won’t be back, I said. Karen was skeptical. Her skepticism was justified. He came back today. I discharged another banger. Again he left at light speed. Two minutes later, two young woman arrived and were about to strike out on the Terrace Mountain Trail until I persuaded them otherwise. After that, I left for an important meeting of the Terrace Yacht Club only to discover, upon my return, that the bear had returned, clambering from spruce tree to spruce tree along the back of the property like Tarzan of the Apes, before sucking the peanuts from my squirrel feeder. Even though he’s caused me a bit of heartburn, I don’t want this bear shot. With the apples gone, the bird feeders on high, and the neighbours keeping their garbage in until just before the arrival of the truck, he will leave, as bears crossing my homestead have for 30 years. Unfortunately, the media over reports the extraordinary and ignores the commonplace with the inevitable result that the extraordinary seems commonplace. The distorted reality this engenders causes well-meaning moms to believe that menace lurks in every park and moves them to bus their offspring to school in minivans thus exposing them to the far greater risk of a car crash while denying them exercise of walking. Similarly, each of the extremely rare dangerous bear encounters, gets slathered in coverage, creating the mistaken impression that these mishaps are frequent and almost always deadly. Not so. It’s September. It’s Terrace. Soon the bears will be gone, denned up. It will be winter, and we’ll all be left wondering what happened to summer.

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