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Bears In Trees

Charlie and I were on our way to Burke's house in early May (after our last snow storm) when Charlie said he thought he saw a bear in a tree. We turned around and sure enough, there was a black fur ball nestled in the crook of the tree, sound asleep. I dropped Charlie off at Burke's, grabbed my camera and went back to visit the bear and get a few photos. I hiked to the other side of the ravine and waited, and waited, and waited. That bear was in a deep slumber and my requests for a photo opportunity were ignored. During my hour-long vigil, I started to wonder if the bear was sick, needed rescuing or worse, dead in the tree. Give me enough time and I will conjure up a worst scenario that will knock your socks off.

I'm the first to admit I have a tendency to attempt to rescue any animal I think may need assistance (whether the animal actually wants my help, or not). Case in point— the time one of the dogs unearthed a rabbit nest full of babies and I thought I could be the rabbit mama until they were old enough to fend for themselves. I knew enough to wait and see if their real rabbit mama showed up but after two days, it wasn't looking good. I looked on the internet, avoiding all websites that recommended leaving well enough alone, and found some info about feeding the babies goat's milk with an eyedropper. I called my friend Jill who had some frozen goat's milk (it's still in my freezer) and ran up to her house to get the supplies to save the babies. I returned home, washed my hands and the eyedropper, put a bunch of soft rags in a box, warmed the milk and went to the nest to start my newest mothering role but it was empty— no bunnies or bunny parts to be seen. I'm sticking with the 'mama rabbit re-located her babies to save them from my well-meaning ministrations' story— coyotes don't eat during the day, right?

Talk about an empty nest syndrome, I thought about those little bunnies for days and wondered what I should have done differently. After careful reflection, I decided this lesson was about leaving well enough alone and trusting everything will be as it should be— without my help. Enter the sleeping bear in the tree. I remembered my baby rabbit lesson but decided it probably wasn't a cross-species lesson and this bear might need my help. I called the DNR and spoke to a nice woman who assured me the bear most likely went back into a mini hibernation because of the late season snowfall. Sounded plausible enough but after two days of checking on the bear, I had convinced myself he was injured, couldn't get down and might be hungry. This is where Jill comes in again (she must be my karmic wild animal rescue food supplier), she had a couple of fish skins lying around— maybe a little fishy snack might be a nice way to get the bear out of the tree?

I placed the fish skin near the tree, told the bear there was a snack waiting if he decided to get out of the tree and went home. Remember what I mentioned earlier about my lightening quick worst case scenario development skills? Well, I worried the bear would smell the fish and in his sleep-addled brain, fall out the tree. Thereby making my good intentions the sole cause of his injury or demise. I hopped back into the car, got to the tree just in time to see an enormous raven flying away with the entire pile of fish skins. At that point, I surrendered. It was obvious nature was telling me to back off, go home and stop trying to feed the bunnies and bears. A couple of days later, it warmed up and the bear was out of the tree. He was just waiting for the right time to wake up and because I don't speak bear, he had no way to tell me. But he visited today and that counts for a lot in my book.

Meghan was at the pond and saw him walk down into our ravine, get a drink from the stream and head down the driveway. Something made him turn around and he started towards our house. Ted asked him what he was doing and he answered the question by climbing the nearest tree and watching us. We watched him (from the house) for a couple of hours and when we returned home from Jack's award ceremony, he was gone. I laid some tobacco at the base of the tree and said a prayer of thanks for having such an honored guest in our yard for the afternoon. Lesson # 3,227— sometimes bears will show up all on their own, without my help.