On the market: Bear tracks and dog scratches | SierraSun.com

On the market: Bear tracks and dog scratches

Life In Our Mountain Town, Katie Shaffer

There’s a bear that lives near my house. I like to think that he lives in the woods behind our garage.

He did seem to be gone for about a month, but now he’s back. I figure this guy probably wanders over a 100-mile range. He just happens to have a preference for the general area that I also happen to call home.

Last spring we could see his tracks in the mud by our well. The tracks he left weren’t going in just one direction. He was traveling a regular route, back and forth.

This bear drives my dogs crazy. I usually am grateful if our dogs are indoors when the bear comes around, because having my dogs chasing this guy is stressful for me.

This past summer our older dog broke through our electric fence and chased the bear across a meadow that sits behind our house. My dog purposefully did not outrun him, but instead ran just fast enough to bark at his heels, as the bear loped along at a pace that was probably as speedy as this 400-pound animal could go. Meanwhile, I hollered for my dog to come back, but as I’ve written before, my dogs don’t generally come immediately when I call them anyway. If there’s a bear in the quotient, my dog thinks her job is to chase the wild animal away, not to turn on her heels and come back to me.

I think the bear only comes close to our house at night, when he’s pretty sure the dogs are safely contained inside.

This summer the bear sniffed out an empty pizza box, which I had inadvertently left on our deck. On this particular visit, he got what he could off the pizza box, and then he walked over to our dining room window, cocked his head, and looked in. Having a bear peering in our windows really sets my dogs off. They bark and growl and practically bite at the windows, all the while making huge scratches on the windowsill. The bear is not intimidated by the racket. He also does not seem to see very well. My daughter thinks he is near-sighted.

So, while the bear is deciding whether or not he’s done hanging around, there’s my husband who is banging pots and pans together, and the dogs who are barking their heads off and my children who are yelling at the dogs, as I go around the house cranking shut our casement windows. I have this idea that the bear might pry open the windows and climb in the house.

The bear came back another night when we had barbecued outdoors, and grilled some onions indoors. This time he came up on the deck, and looked longingly through our glass kitchen door. Again, the same scene ensued, with barking and scratching and clanging and yelling and windows shutting.

In August, we had friends visiting from Colorado who asked if I wouldn’t consider leaving another pizza box on the deck so that they could see the bear. I assured them that that was not a good idea. We did, however, have signs that the bear was nearby, mostly in the form of steaming cow paddy-like droppings that he leaves behind, full of berries. I always hope that I find these before my dogs do, because they enjoy rolling in this foul smelling heap.

One night that same week, my husband left a garage door open overnight. The bear, of course, helped himself to some garbage that was stored inside. We could see that he had opened the trash can lid and set aside, untouched, a blue bag of recycling. Two bags full of garbage were gone. I could just imagine him, lumbering off with two bags of garbage tossed over his shoulder. We found the remains of the garbage a few days later, in a corner of our property, which is sheltered by a grove of trees, the same place from which I had seen him emerge the morning my dog chased him across the meadow. This spot is behind our garage, where I think he lives.

The bear is a nuisance, but I accept him as a part of life here. We have removed our bird feeders that he bent, mangled and destroyed. We are trying hard to not attract him, yet the other night, he pried the lid off our septic tank. He has managed to crush shrubs as he steps up onto our deck. He is just another trash bear, looking for something to eat, and we happen to live where he does too.

Oh, did I mention that our house is on the market? We have a great little house set up on a ridge top.

It comes complete with dog scratches on the windowsills, which attest to frequent visits by a bear who likes to walk across our deck.

My realtor will read this column and think, ‘Don’t tell them that!’

Katie Shaffer is a Truckee resident. Life in Our Mountain Town appears every other week in the Sierra Sun.

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