Momma And Her Three Bears

Just because it came up somewhere else… I’ve been wandering around in bear country throughout my life, with my first close encounter coming in 1973 up in British Columbia. It was a typical encounter in that the bear and I surprised each other and we both backed off. Not much of a story, really. The last makes a better one:

Once upon a time about oh, five years ago (right to the day), there was a big damn fire near Yosemite National Park. It was during that time when Amethyst and I were discovering just how fouled up my parents could be, so we were there in the path of the fire. We were awakened well before sunrise by a deputy banging on the door, the wall, and the windows telling us that it was evacuation time. The afternoon before, this was the view from the end of the driveway:


It was a big ole fire, yes indeed.

As it would turn out, the fire came barreling down on the property and then forked about 200 yards north of it, and ran down the east and west sides within 150 yards of the fences without even throwing an ember onto the place. What probably saved the property was the number of people hoping it would burn, including the parents who coveted the insurance money.

The fire pushed a lot of wildlife out of its home range and among them was a pretty chocolate brown sow with three cubs. I caught some did I see what I thought I saw glimpses of momma reconnoitering the house at night, but she was stealthy so all I really saw was her rump disappearing into the darkness, and one time I caught her eyes reflecting back at me in the beam of a flashlight. I didn’t say anything to anyone about it — Amethyst had enough stress already, and it was true for both of my parents what my maternal grandmother used to say about my father: For one who grew up in the country your father somehow doesn’t know the first thing about country living.

Amethyst and I had been in town and returned just after it got fully dark. As I opened the truck door Mommie Dearest hollered up to us that we ought to be careful about the bears that had just broken in and were still lurking about. Bears plural? I’d seen only the one. Plural meant momma with cub or cubs. Oh joy, housebreaking lessons, if that’s what they are, mean bad bears. Those who make their livings that way are dangerous, whereas those who just kinda knock off a joint when no one’s home every now and then in the Fall are just big pains in the ass. It’s usually only in their first or second years that bears do that kind of thing, as those who make a habit of it end up as rugs.

It was quite dark and we couldn’t see much of anything, so we found a flashlight in the truck and made our way down to the house — “down” because the garage is situated higher than the house. My father was all kinds of agitated because he’s got a bad case of bear terror. To hear him tell it the least force required to stop a bear is a tactical thermonuclear weapon, and mommas with cubs are apt to kill every living thing within a two hundred yard radius of their cubs. It’d be comical if it weren’t so annoying. After Mommie Dearest convinced him to shut up, she filled us in on the action so far.

They’d heard a commotion on the screened porch, and when Mommie Dearest went to investigate she saw what she thought was a big dog with its head buried in a bag of dog kibble. They’ve got neighbors directly across the road who moved from the city “so Rover can run”, being of the bonehead belief that country people’s dogs are permitted to roam at will, and their own dear Rover would never harass or kill livestock and game animals. So she snatched up a stick and whacked the critter right on the ass. What backed out of the bag was all behind the toothy grin of a bear cub. Oops! She skedaddled back into the house just in case momma didn’t like having her cubs whacked with sticks. That was less than a minute before we pulled up.

I figured that if the bear was inside then the door was broken, so I grabbed my big lantern and as my idiot father to bring his .30-30 along just in case I got cornered in the enclosed porch by an angry sow bear. Sure enough, the door latch was broken. Bears who go through doors usually bounce on them until the latch fails, perhaps because the frame or the door itself has cracked. In this case it was the latch itself, and tying the door knob to one of the posts supporting the porch roof would do the trick just fine. It wouldn’t keep the bears out if they wanted in badly enough, but it’d leave them having to make lots of noise to get in. I scrounged up some light rope while my father stood by holding the flashlight and rifle.

A couple of the cubs ran past on the sidewalk just a couple of feet in front of the door, maybe just playing, maybe hoping to scare me away from their kibble. That left me unable to see what I was doing because my father wanted to shine the flashlight on the cubs. One of them turned and ran back past, so I growled and hollered at him to let him know that I was the bigger bear and dammit the kibble is mine now. Then I had to bitch at my father to train the light on what I was doing rather than what the cubs were doing, and he made some kind of pronouncement about how dangerous bears are. I made the mistake of telling him that I wasn’t at all concerned about the cubs, so if he wanted to shine the light around at things that weren’t my work he should figure out where momma went. The dummy did just that.

Momma was about 20 feet away, just sitting there watching the fun. Have I mentioned that my father has bear terror? He turned and hauled ass to get back inside the house, taking the flashlight and rifle with him. If momma were a man eater (yeah, right) I’d have been Very Severely Fucked because I was without light or weapon, and between me and safety was a slow moving gimpy old man. I told him, well, yelled at him, to leave me the flashlight and rifle. More city boy wisdom: You don’t want to shoot that bear with a .30-30 because all it will do is piss her off and then you’re really in trouble.

Oddly enough, lots of people hunt bear with .30-30’s every year and none of them get et by the bears they piss off that way. I had to go into the house to get my lantern back from him, but he wouldn’t part with that rifle. He sat there in his recliner with the damned thing clutched to his chest the way a frightened three year old clutches his blankie.

After getting the door tied off I went out and scared the bears away from that side of the house just by showing them that I was the bigger bear and this is my house now. A little roaring, hollering, and arm gestures did the trick. I speak bear. 🙂 Unfortunately, one of the cubs got a little too frightened and treed in an apple tree. Climbed the chain link fence to do it, too, so would come down inside the fenced back yard when it climbed down. That’d leave cub inside and momma outside, and that could become a problem. The gate at the back was on a steep duff-covered slope so I wasn’t eager to go open the gate with momma around — I’d fall even if there were no bears around when the duff slipped. I wasn’t keen on the idea of falling with the gate open, a cub behind me and a momma in front of me. That might trigger that momma bear instinct everyone likes to go on about.

The only way out of the back yard without going back over the fence, which the cub was unlikely to do unless frightened, was to climb the steps onto the deck attached to the house. If it had been just Amethyst and I, that would have been a fine solution. But my mother is one of those who can’t help but to investigating without a clue of what to do should she find the thing she fears she might, and my father was both terrified and armed. It was already going to be dangerous to move around the house at night for however long it took for him to stop having nightmares of ravenous man eating bulletproof bears. I thought back to seeing his face behind a cocked .38 revolver one night when I came home late in our safe, quiet, white bread suburban neighborhood — more than once. The old man is afraid of everything except the things he should be afraid of.

That meant I had to scare the cub enough to climb the fence. His momma and two siblings were just ten feet outside of it, so it wouldn’t be difficult. I went around the house onto the deck so he wouldn’t try to escape onto it, and put on my badder bear than you act. Momma turned tail and hauled her some bear ass and didn’t slow down until she was far enough out that her eyes didn’t reflect the brilliant 1.2 million candlepower lantern beam. Then she turned and hollered at her cubs, and if my bear translation is correct, she told the one who’d been treed, “You better get your furry little ass out of there before that crazy two leg eats you!”. The cub went over the fence, and we saw no more of the four bears again. Momma stopped reconnoitering the house at night.

A few days later I met a guy in town buying ammunition because momma bear had been to his place. He was living in a travel trailer after his house burned, and she was looking in the windows and bouncing on the door hard enough to empty his cupboards. Bad bears end up as rugs. I don’t know if she and her cubs survived the Fall. Not only were they housebreaking and being general nuisances, they were trespassing on a male bear’s range so had to stay where he wouldn’t go, which was too near the humans. Going back home wasn’t an option, as their home range in a deep, rugged canyon right under that plume of smoke in the photo above. There was nothing for them to eat there.

Though it’s not an exciting tale of beating back a bear with the arm it just tore off of me, there you have one of Amethyst’s favorite bear stories that she likes to tell now and then. The ferocious bulletproof momma bear who hauled ass leaving her cubs behind. 😀

We get all manner of wildlife in town here in Dinkytown, but it’s been a while since a bear became a real nuisance. Lately it’s a mountain lion who gets all of the attention, but with the deer congregating in town where the summer living is easy it’s to be expected. I don’t sweat the minimal threats like those — it’s the skunks, raccoon, and possums that give me cause to worry since there’s been an uptick in rabies here in Colorado this year.

Thus spake the Not A Google Instant Expert. 😉


19 thoughts on “Momma And Her Three Bears

    1. happierheathen Post author

      Black bears for the most part are just critters out trying to make a living just like the rest of us, and they’re fairly mellow outside of eat-everything season when they’re single minded and more apt to startle. There are thousands and thousands of black bear encounters every year, but maulings are rare and fatalities even rarer.

      What I was did was bear-speak for “I’m the biggerer badder-ass bear and this shit is mine!”. Momma wasn’t going to be of a mind to tangle and especially not where it meant risking that her cubs would be orphaned in the boar’s territory where she was trespassing. Nuthin’ to it. 🙂

        1. happierheathen Post author

          😀 Nowhere near it! But with the combat boots on the top of the top hat might have gone to 6’2″. In between there’s just 5’8″ of me. But I had more attitude than all four of ’em combined.

  1. grannyandthebaldguy

    I went down to the dumpster one just before sunrise, and tossed a bag of garbage in. As soon as the garbage landed a brown bear cub sat up and looked at me and Mama Bear was behind the dumpster.
    I made a dash for the open laundry room door and sat in there on top of the washer and drier and called the police on my phone who sent the games warden out to remove them.
    The Mama and cub put up a fight and scared the crap out of me.
    I never go out to the dumpsters before day light any more.

  2. Shannon Lorraine

    Thank goodness I live in Australia, in the part where I only have to worry about snakes and spiders…I don’t think I could handle a late night arm-wrestle with a bear.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      It was just a loud argument, really.

      Another reason to be thankful: There’s not one beer distributor in Colorado who’ll bring me so much as a single tinnie of VB. 😦

      1. Shannon Lorraine

        Well, that is just rude! I’ve a fridge full of them…but I prefer XXXXGold [Four Ex] above all else, maybe the odd Carlton Dry. The fridge full is a result of my moving house and the beer was used as brother motivation.

        I like the appropriate use of lingo, ‘tinnie’. haha!

        1. happierheathen Post author

          I drag around some slang from my travels. I’m not much of a beer drinker and dislike the metallic taste of cans, so tinnie’s a good one for me to keep on hand. 🙂

          If memory serves, the last canned beer I drank was a VB that a client brought for me when he moved back from somewhere around Darwin about a dozen years ago. I didn’t even think to bitch about them not being in glass.

          1. Shannon Lorraine

            I dislike canned/tinned beer too. If it’s not poured directly from the tap (which is what I’m used to drinking as ‘pourer of the beers’ is my job description, when I drink from a stubby/glass bottle. Tins get to hot too quickly & the beer starts to taste like fart when that happens. Yuck!

            Have your travels brought you over to the dark side? (aka, Aus)

            1. happierheathen Post author

              Yep, I got Down Under in my world traveling days. That’s what got me onto the VB.

              I almost emigrated in 1990. I had a job offer that would have put me in Perth with a fat salary and a fully furnished five bedroom house. But I was a single dad at the time and the ex wouldn’t let me take the kids. I was one very unhappy guy about that.

  3. ordinarybutloud

    So far we’ve avoided bear-mauling. But they’re pretty. I’m glad I got to see some. I hope I don’t see anymore. Bahahahaha in re: Not A Google Instant Expert.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      I hope that other than the ursine neighbors you’re digging Telluride. 🙂 You can go back to Podville with bear stories from the wild West so it’s worked out just fine, eh?

      That instant expert line was twice shitty of me, I know, but it’s kinda like what Jimmy Buffett sings in his song Manana about seeing the ocean and a Kiss concert.

      1. ordinarybutloud

        hahhahahaha. aspects of telluride are fantastic. but the social commentary you gave in re: silver city applies here, too. I might have to blog about it.

        1. happierheathen Post author

          Wow, that sucks about Telluride. I haven’t been there in a good while. I noticed that Durango was getting strange back in the 90’s — I landed a gig to be the new tech guru at the college, but the feel of the place was getting ugly in just that way so I passed on it. Colleges are bad enough, but to go from that all day to the same in town after? Not gonna happen.

          Dammit. That kind of thing is supposed to stay over on the Front Range where it belongs. 😦

          1. ordinarybutloud

            well, I think you could stay here quite a long time and maybe not notice it. I just happen to know quite a few people here.


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