Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…. August 31, 2018

Well, this is an easy post to write, because apparently the black bear has decided to move in to our property and make himself at home!

Saturday we were walking through our west side yard (the only place on our property with regular grass) when I looked down and saw this:

Bear Scat

If you have ever wondered what bear poop   (politely called bear scat) looks like, this is it. There is no mistaking bear scat!

Monday I was outside by the east side of the house when I noticed this broken branch in one of our wild cherry trees:

 

That had to have been the bear; nothing else that big climbs trees except for mountain lions, and they are scarce in the summer.  From the tiny pits in his scat, I suspected the bear has been eating the wild cherries, and this branch confirmed my suspicion.

It’s kinda creepy to know that a wild bear is skulking around your house unseen, so we pulled out all three of our trail cameras and set them up.  I strapped the first one to a tree facing the wild cherry trees, the second one to a tree overlooking the west side yard where we found the scat, and the third one facing the chicken coop.

John bought an SD card reader similar to this one.  It’s so easy to open the camera, pull out the SD card, plug it into my phone using the reader, and view the pictures on my phone screen!

Wednesday I was feeding the goats when I found more evidence of a visit.  We have two old chest freezers in the goat barn that we use for storing goat food and treats.  One holds hay and a bag of loose minerals, the other holds bags of goat chow and sweet feed plus containers of whole corn and sunflower seeds.

Barn freezers
Left freezer, hay; right freezer, grains and treats.

John put two large bolts into the front corners of the hay freezer to prop the lid open so that air circulates to the hay.  On this morning, I could not open the lid because the bear had climbed on it, dented the top, and his weight crushed the lid onto the right hand bolt.  John used the nearest tool, a small shovel, to pry the lid open.  We can’t believe the bear was in view of the goats in their barn, they never made a sound, and we did not hear anything through the baby monitor.

John and shovel

 

Yes, a baby monitor.  When the bear showed up at the beginning of the summer, we installed a baby monitor in the goat barn.  The receiver sits on John’s night table beside the bed, so we can hear any disturbance in the barn.  It works so well that it picks up the sound of Bama crowing in the chicken coop, maybe a hundred feet down the hill.  We now know that he begins crowing at 5 AM, thank you very much.

Bolts in freezer
Putting these bolts in to prop open the lid of the freezer was genius!

Thursday, this picture pops up on John’s phone screen with a message: Hey!  I was in your draw showing property to a client when I saw your bear!

Josh’s bear picture. The snub nose, small ears, and lack of a hump on its back are all indications that this is a black bear, not a grizzly.

Our friend Josh is a real estate agent, and in his one trip in the draw with clients, he takes the best picture we have seen of the bear.  Of course he did.

That night, the bear decided to get up close and personal. At 10:15PM, we were in bed; John was watching videos with his headset on, I was drifting off to sleep, and Belle was snoozing on her bed. Belle popped up and looked to the window where the wild cherry tree grows six feet away.  John heard something, too, so he walked over to the window and peeked through the curtains with his flashlight.

“Oh my gosh, Honey, it’s the bear, in the cherry tree, and he’s broken a large branch!” I popped out of bed, and sure enough, he was RIGHT THERE! Calmly munching on sour cherries.  I tried to get a couple of pictures, to no avail through the glass.

We were not about to go outside, but we didn’t want him tearing up the tree, either, so we cracked the window open a few inches, and in his gruffest voice, John shouted, “Shoo, bear!  Get outta here!”

The bear growled.

We could not shut that window fast enough!

We looked out a couple of minutes later, and he was gone.

At 2AM, we heard noise on the goat monitor.  It sounded like something was pawing at the caribiner that we use to secure the hasp on the freezer containing the feed, but not a peep from the goats.

We got out of bed, cracked open the front door and peered out.  John installed a solar floodlight with a motion sensor on the front of the goat barn; it was not on.  He has a really strong flashlight, so he aimed it on the barn, but we could not see anything, so we went back to bed.  By then the noise had stopped.

At 4AM, Bama began shrieking his alarm call.  Wearily, we drug ourselves out of bed (again) and peeked out the front door, with John’s trusty flashlight illuminating the chicken coop.  No bear in sight.

We slept in.

When I woke up, I popped out of bed, hurriedly dressed, grabbed the SD card reader and my phone and made a beeline to the camera facing the cherry tree. I couldn’t wait to see the pictures!  I scrolled through previous pictures (lots of deer eating cherries) to 10:15 the night before.  The only two pictures were set off by the flash in my camera when I tried to get a picture.

Disappointed, I continued to scroll, expecting more deer pictures.  (They love the cherries.) But wait!  At 6:30AM, the bear was back!  We have bear pictures! I took the card into the house and popped it into my computer to save the pictures.  When I opened the first photo for a full screen view y’all, THERE WERE TWO BEARS!!

I am not even kidding.  See for yourself!

You can see the second bear's eyes.
The big bear is obvious. Look to the right, under the broken branch. Zoom and you will see a small black bear peering out. You can see his eyes reflecting the flash.

Since July, I have wondered occasionally if there are two bears, because descriptions of the bear do not always match up.  When I saw the bear by the fence in the back yard, it looked huge; its back came almost to the top rail of the fence.  Yet when John saw it, he reported that the bear was small, maybe a 150 pound yearling.  But we never saw two bears together.

Two bears
Again, the big bear is obvious. The smaller bear is to the right, by the broken branch, with his back to the camera.

You know what is more dangerous than one bear? A sow with her cub. And when you know they are both out there, seeing only one bear becomes a whole new level of concern because you might be in between the sow and her cub, which is NOT where you want to be!

Broken branch at near house.
That bear broke off a big branch! This is the same tree where it broke a smaller branch.

 

Tree by house
The bear has been this close to the house at least twice!

It has also occurred to us that there might be more than two bears, maybe three, which would explain why we usually see a solitary bear.  I can’t even.

Have you ever seen the movie “The Ghost and the Darkness?” It’s the fictionalized account of two man eating lions that terrorized a bridge construction project in Tsavo, Kenya in 1898. (It’s a well produced movie; we just watched it again a couple of weeks ago.) Before the horrified laborers fled the scene, they named the two lions “The Ghost” and “The Darkness.” The taxidermied lions are on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.

You can guess what I named the two bears.

Remember back in the first week of July when I said it was like God flipped a switch and summer started?  Well, this week he flipped the switch again, and fall started.  Sunday night and Monday it rained (YAY!), and the daytime temperatures dropped from from the 80s and 90s to the 60s and 70s.  Relief at last from the heat!  The rain also cleared out the smoke.  Here’s a picture from Monday evening, the first clear skies we have seen in weeks.

Evening sky

 

I have no understanding of wind currents, but we have been very blessed to continue to have clear air this week.  No smoke from the Howe Ridge Fire in Glacier, despite the fact that it has grown to 14,000 acres.

We remain under stage two fire restrictions, which means that you can only operate machines with combustible engines from 1AM to 1PM, when the humidity is highest. Locally this is known as working hoot owl hours. For property owners, this includes lawn mowers and chain saws. We are hoping these restrictions will lift soon so that we can begin cutting firewood in the afternoons.  John has chronic back pain issues, so most days he isn’t able to get out and do heavy work until after lunch.

What about you? Has fall shown up in your neck of the woods yet?  Let me know in the comments!

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Also, because one of my nieces lives in France, I have installed Google translate so that her in-laws and friends can read our adventires in French.  If you know of anyone outside of the US who might enjoy this blog, please share it with them!

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6 Replies to “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…. August 31, 2018”

  1. Mary Anne Hipple says: Reply

    Hey Eleanor, I haven’t checked your blog in awhile, so I enjoyed catching up on your posts! Uno and his mama are too cute!

    1. Hi, Maryanne, thanks for reading! Uno has grown so much! I will have to post some new pics soon.

  2. Tracey Turner Reidy says: Reply

    Wow just Wow!

  3. Hey Eleanor
    I really looking forward to your blogs
    So i can have a look in the true Life in Montana
    And be in contact with people I like very much

  4. Cynthia Liston Freeman says: Reply

    He likes your digs!!!!

    1. Apparently so, Cindy! Stay tuned, there’s more bear adventure coming!

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