Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Bear with me
A recent weekend get-away was just what my husband and I needed. We spin in different vortexes at times, and earlier this year, we committed to spending time away together with some regularity. Luckily, I have a friend with a rental along the North Fork of the Yuba River.
We pulled into the driveway early Friday and immediately began to relax. After settling in, we poured some wine and took a short hike down to the river’s edge. The path was steep and rocky, but not long.
Across the river and up a few hundred feet, we saw a small group of people on a deck, also enjoying a libation. They waved at us enthusiastically and we waved back.
One of them was yelling something and pointing. “Hello!” I yelled back with equal fervor. “What? I can’t hear you.”
Again, they yelled and pointed and then I heard them. “Bear! Right there!” We looked across the water to the sight of a young bear, navigating away from us into the woods.
He (let us just assume “he”) was young, which made me think a much larger and protective bear might be nearby. We went back to the house and made dinner.
The next day was equally relaxing. My husband’s version of fun included a 10-mile run up 2,200 feet of elevation. My version included a walk into town for milk. We spent the day soaking up the sun, walking along the river, reading, and having real conversations about what we value in our relationship.
That evening we decided to walk into town for dinner. The sleepy little borough only offered two choices. We stopped for a drink at the only bar and found we were also the only patrons. We decided to call it an evening and walked back to the rental.
A surprise visitor
Upon our return, I saw the refrigerator door was open and chastised my spouse. He is prone to such absentmindedness while having too much fun.
It was still light out and I was considering walking back down the path to the rocky beach. Looking toward the edge of the lawn I asked, “Honey, had you noticed this statue of a bear in the front yard?”
I was admiring a realistic looking bronze piece of art. My husband stood up and said, “That is not a statue. That is a bear.”
The cub sat so still, I didn’t believe it was real, but before I could grab my camera, it turned and left. My husband chided me a bit and then said, “Is that our box of crackers on the lawn?”
Taking a quick inventory, we soon realized the bear had made himself at home while we were away. While there was no obvious sign of an intruder, we noted a pair of steaks and a pound of salami had disappeared from the refrigerator. I apologized for blaming my spouse for not shutting the refrigerator door.
In addition to the meat, we realized we were also missing a sleeve of English muffins, a container of rice crackers and the aforementioned snack bits from the kitchen counter. The only remnant of evidence of the home invasion was an empty chocolate chip package found on the floor, next to an untouched bag of garbage.
Nothing was torn, ripped, shredded or otherwise disturbed. The bear obviously had not packed a bag and left, so we realized the little intruder had made several trips in and out of the screened doorway.
I found it eerily human in precision.
The rental instructions at our location came with no less than three reminders to bring food in from outside and to be aware of bears in the area. It did not mention locking the fridge!
I have heard plenty of stories about bears and bear invasions. This did not fit the bill. I expected ripped open cupboards, muddy paw prints, torn screens and an odor that screamed, “Bear!” There was none of that. Had I not seen him myself, I might have suspected a human invasion when it was time to fire up the grill and I discovered the missing beef.
I sent my friend a note and she responded the bears were “bold and aggressive.”
“And, apparently know their way around your kitchen,“ I added.
Bear in mind …
According to bearsmart.com, if you meet a bear, “stop what you are doing and evaluate the situation. Identify yourself by speaking in a calm, appeasing tone. Back away slowly, preferably in the direction you came. Walk, don’t run, and keep your eye on the bear so you can see how it will react. In most cases, the bear will flee.”
I thought how lucky we were to have not interrupted his activity and how we had slept with just the screen door the night before. I can’t imagine “calmly addressing the bear.”
We left the next day without further incident. My friend arrived later and said she had to shoo the little guy away another couple of times. This is sad news for the bear. Now that he has found a food source, he is prone to returning and will be labeled a nuisance, which will likely lead to his demise. Such is the challenge of bears and humans living together, apart.
We have another get away scheduled in a few weeks. I vote for something a bit less rustic. Possibly, some play time in the “City by the Bay.” I know I can bear that!
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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