Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods? Not If He Can Use My Yard ...

Suffice it to say, when you move to Canada, you're in for some nature. Even city dwellers in urban Vancouver and way east over in Toronto will share their tales of urban wildlife--hawks, owls, raccoons, coyotes, and yes ... bears. I live in a suburb of Vancouver (about 35 km outside the city), close enough to make jaunts downtown not too painful but far enough away that I don't have to deal with, well, Vancouver. I'm a homebody. Too much traffic, too many people -- makes Mommy nutty. Granted, comparatively speaking, we still have an impressive population -- almost 216,000 in just the Tri-Cities area (Port Moody-Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam), enough that traffic is becoming a bigger issue every year, as is lack of infrastructure (schools, fire houses, grocery stores) and so many stupid drivers. Did I mention that I hate stupid drivers? Those, we have many.

But we live close to the woods and huge stretches of as-yet undeveloped land (sadly, I don't know how much longer I will be able to say that because of the gross greed of zealous developers). The Coquitlam River is walking distance from my house and is fed by a glacier over those mountains (I'm pointing -- just look north). Funnily enough, folks assume that because I live in the Great White North, we get tons of snow. Not true. Not around here, at least. Our weather is similar to that you'd find in Seattle or even Portland. So when it snows, it's an event. Folks forget how to drive (and get stupider than usual). Kids want to skip school to make snowmen. We sled. (Although around these parts, they call it "tobogganing." And winter hats are called "toques.") We drink cocoa and warm our hands over heat vents after a raucous snowball fight in the yard where at least one child (ahem*Kendon*ahem) will get nailed in the face by a tightly packed ball of white wintery delight.

Each year, we are typically satisfied with our assumptions that the creatures are denning in preparation for the Long Dark as the clouds are impenetrable most days. Sun? What sun? And of course, we think our walks along the river paths will be safer because the bears are finally asleep.

Or so we thought.

This morning, I looked out the bedroom window to the snowy yard below, hoping the neighbors wouldn't see my uber-frightening morning face/hair/penguin pajama ensemble, and I saw these:

First thought: "Damn, that was a big damn dog that traipsed through the yard uninvited. I hope he didn't poop."

Second thought: "Wait -- if that was a dog, then where are the dog's owner's footprints?"

Third thought: "That dog has a really bizarre walking pattern."

Best thought: "Holy shit, those are BEAR TRACKS!"

You can even see the imprint of his rather large claws in these images. Trust me when I say that these flat, full prints are about 7" long. THAT is a big bear. And he is very much not sleeping.

It's sort of dark so that I can show you the contrast of the pads of his feet and the nails.

Husband thought I was being silly. Until he too looked and saw that, though I've been known to have Random Moments of Crazy, this was not one of them. I posted a few shots on Facebook and was validated by folks who've lived here longer than I have -- indeed, these are bear tracks, made in the pristine snow just outside my bedroom window.

Good thing I've stopped sleeping with fresh cookies on my nightstand, or we could've been in real trouble. A few months ago, a bear broke into a car to get the remnants of a ginger-molasses cookie left on the passenger seat. #truth #gingermolassescookiesareyummy

The tracks lead to the neighbor's garbage cans in their carport and then disappear (the neighbors shoveled away their driveway snow like good humans are supposed to).

This probably makes me a big fat dork that I am so impressed by these bear tracks, but more than that, I'm sad for the bear that he's not yet hibernating, that he feels he needs to dig through the garbage because he doesn't yet have a full belly. Wherever he ended up last night, I hope he was warm. And I wished he would've knocked on the window so I could've seen his pretty face and given him a hug.

Okay, FINE, I know I can't hug a bear. But if we could have Fantasy Day during which we could hug all the animals who would otherwise rip our faces off with a single swipe of an outstretched paw or a chomp of the well-toothed jaw, add lion, tiger, honey badger, wolverine, and Smaug the Dragon to my list.

Happy Christmas or December 25 or Winter Solstice or whatever you celebrate, if you do. (If you follow a religion that does not celebrate a winter fest, then, um, yeah ... whatever floats your boat. Just means more marshmallows for us, so thanks.) I will be wearing fat pants and, barring any unforeseen natural disasters or acts of God, not leaving the house. Unless that bear shows up again and then I might follow him ... you know, for a hug.

Xs and Os ...

Postscript: The likely culprit here is a black bear, Ursus americanus. This photo is from Spirit Bear Lodge's website and is not at all mine. Just so you know which bear we're talking about ...

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