Sunday, July 7, 2013

A rare species of bird discovered.

Mom asked us put out a bird feeder a few days ago. We provided an excellent setup: suspended between the house and a grove of trees, positioned just outside the breakfast table window, and rigged with a system of pulleys to easily raise and lower for restocking of seeds. For the first couple days, it did not attract any bird traffic.

This morning, everything changed: we were treated to sighting a rare, flightless bird.

The black bear; a male juvenile.

My dad spotted it first. He was grabbing a sugar for his coffee; it took him a while to look up and notice the bear. I was roused from bed with calls of "THERE'S A BEAR IN THE BACKYARD," accompanied by frenzied barking from Reka. She has a bark reserved for when she feels really threatened or senses danger: it's throatier, more urgent, and louder. She was using that bark right now.

Alfred (I named him Alfred) peeked into the windows, curious what the fuss was all about.

"Hey guys, what's up?"

After establishing that he was not about to be chased off, Alfred hopped up on his hind legs and took hold of the feeder in his paws, pulling it down to the ground.

This one was only a child, but clocked in at around 300 pounds by my estimation. A clawed, heavyweight creature standing up at 7 feet tall is an awesome sight. It's bizarrely human-like in that moment.

My dad caught a video of him going to town on the feeder. He would sit on his haunches, sometimes with legs splayed out in front of him, nose burrowed under the little metal roof. Once with a mouthful of seeds, he would draw out his head and munch away, letting his gaze wander. He seemed so at ease, sitting there, utterly unphased by the frantic and aggressive vocalizations from the dog.

No amount of shouting, barking, or clapping of pans could deter him. Eventually my mom resigned herself to the gradual dismantling of her beloved bird feeder (which was, by definition, a bear feeder, having never served any birds) and returned to preparing her breakfast.

An odd truce was struck between the two breakfasting individuals.

All we could do was wait. He left once the feeder was completely emptied. 

We learned later that everyone at Bear Lake does not bother with a bird feeder while the bears are active. If you put it out, they will figure out a way to knock it down. Put it up a tree? They'll climb it. Up a steel pole? They'll keep slamming it to knock it down. They will dismantle any protection scheme with brute force and patience.

The tag on each ear signified two strikes against Alfred; twice already he had run into trouble with the human population. He was a city bear that had been relocated up in the mountains. A third strike and he will be put down. My mom, taking an eventual liking to Alfred, did not file any official complaint.

Perhaps hard to believe, but it was my first time seeing a bear at Bear Lake, and certainly the first time being so close to one. Despite the namesake, Bear Lake does not have a particularly high concentration of bear sightings / incidents. Most of the bear population is wild and steers clear of any human areas.

Not a bad way to start off the day. 

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