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Story ID:248
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Broken Tree Ranch Montana USA
Person:Black Bear
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Bear Necessities
by Kathe Campbell

Breaking into a hunter's winter stash and amassing a season's hunt amounts to mayhem and murder where I come from. It happened years ago to a good neighbor who was foolish enough to house his freezer on his back deck, under lock and key no less. A cougar or bear breaking into, or tearing out the panels of a freezer, seemed to be the last thing on anyone's mind. But the culprit was indeed a she-bear with cub. Not finding a key, she tore off the sides of his freezer absconding with venison, elk and moose while the family was away. Surrendering to further crime scene hankerings, Mrs. Sow returned. This time a rifle muzzle lay poised through a slightly raised window behind a lacey white curtain. One earth shattering POW to the head and the old girl was an instant goner. Her cub scampered across the creek and disappeared.

We sparsely scattered folk haven't seen bears in our midst for years. The word was obviously out. If you want to keep your fur and tail feathers in-tact, stay away from the Lime Kiln homeowners.

Here on my woodsy Montana mountain, long awaited friends were coming for a visit to my little ranch. I was ecstatic. They were about to indulge in mountain air and a small taste of living with critters of all sizes and breeds, tame and wild. I was bent on showing them our sweet fawns and does grazing amongst the orangey-red Indian paint brush and wild yellow daisies. But as luck would have it, my nature critters failed to show off for company, and all we saw was a nice looking buck farther up the mountain.

On the second night, my good and faithful dog, Cork, kept us awake for hours barking at some unknown out in the south pasture. He's near-sighted, so I figured he was seeing the usual monster shadows of the donkeys as they grazed. I found myself saying "Donkeys, Cork, Donkeys" whereupon he sheepishly flattened both ears in shameful chagrin. I suppose my sweetheart felt duty-bound to sing his own macho sentry duty praises.

But Cork was right and I had to eat my words. At daybreak my guests confronted me with the news that they were watching a bear out their guest room window. Cork's nose had snuffled a brand new type of varmint on this place, and I was thankful he decided to give the bruin a wide berth.

At first glance all I could determine was a sea of stinky white garbage bags that had long before contained the contents of my crusher. It never occurred to me that any sharp-clawed devil could break into my 20-year-old metal mini-dumpster. But he had handily peeled the sides back like so much wallpaper and pilfered a dozen bags. Snubbing our curiosity, the black bear rolled back on his rounded fat exterior, clawing through and lapping up last week's trash. Corky stayed his distance while we silly camera bugs focused and photographed an album's worth of grandchild tales. Upon daring a closeup, the thief snatched up his white prizes and climbed high into nearby trees where he deposited them over limbs.

Later, after a fond farewell to my guests, I plopped down on a deck chair over at the house to admire old bruin's waving banners of gastronomic triumphs. These proudly coveted snacks would probably serve as bear essentials in the wee hours, and would hopefully cause digestive juices to run amok.

Sure enough, Corky rose to the occasion more than once on the following black and stormy nights. He hightailed it in and out through his doggy door wearing a path through the house while reverberating low rumbles of distress. Failing to get my full attention, he jumped on the bed to hand out short blasts of impatient woofs. It was important that I knew the bear had returned, so I assured my kid that it was alright for the beast to retrieve his wealth of high-flying leftovers. Gratefully, the burglar left me with only a few bottles and cans and a lot of plastic.

The dumpster was a goner and ended up in the city dump, so I brought home two lovely 50 gallon tough locking trash receptacles. Oh, you're wondering if I was naive enough to leave two plastic garbage containers outside to tempt another round of plastic bag frivolity? Certainly not. They sit poised and ready for what they were intended . . . behind solid doors in the tack room. I've also disinfected and hosed down bear scent throughout the area behind the hay room. We stink to high heaven of concentrated Pine-Sol, but we're company clean again and will not be serving up further bear necessities anytime soon.