(My Minden Times column Oct. 6)
I sit straight up in bed, wide awake even before my eyes open. They don’t need to be open because it is 6 a.m. and pitch black.
And, I don’t need vision or hearing to know that it is out there. I have a weird sixth sense that wakes me when it comes at night.
At the kitchen back door I search in the darkness for the bear banger I keep handy for such occasions. It’s not as handy as I thought. I can’t find it in the darkness.
I don’t want to turn on the kitchen light because it will see me through the windows and sneak off. I decide to turn on the outside light to at least get a better look at it before it bolts.
It’s there alright, not three feet from the kitchen door, head into the recycling bin. The light startles it. It swivels its head, looking about to see what has interrupted its search for tasty morsels.
He or she a bit too large for a this year’s bear, so I guess it is a one-year-old. Young bears are much like human teenagers, unfocussed and a bit goofy. It just sits there, looking around and sniffing the pre-dawn air.
The bear banger not findable, there is only one other way to give it a scare that it will never forget. I swing the kitchen door open, jump forward with my hands above my head and let loose my loudest banshee-like scream. It falls over itself streaking into the nearby bushes.
Hopefully the scare will teach it that this is not a place to stop by on nightly food-searching rounds. There’s nothing here for it anyhow. The recycling bin was washed and empty.
Black bears have excellent long-term memories. I’m betting that the image of a crazed human jumping it front of it and screaming like a demented thing will stay with it at least until the snow flies and sends it off on its winter sleep.
This was our second bear visit this year following a year or two without any. Night visits and other sightings have increased this year, no doubt because wild berry crops have been devastated by dry weather.
There was a sighting this year on the island across from my place, proving again that black bears are good swimmers. They are believed to be able to swim a distance of three kilometers.
Bears even are showing up in the Big Smoke region with sightings in built up places like Aurora, Milton and Pickering.
One of the scariest sightings this year was in the Lake Superior town of Terrace Bay. A sow and her two cubs padded into the Station Two restaurant through an open back door and began ransacking for food while customers were eating lunch.
The restaurant was evacuated, police shot the mother and the cubs were captured and brought to an animal sanctuary.
In July, just up the highway in Schreiber, a man was walking his dog when he encountered a cub. A mother bear then appeared and attacked the man.
The two boxed each other a couple of times before the cub, who stood watching the fight, squealed and its mother ran off with it. The man suffered claw wounds to his face, shoulder and arm.
Most people survive violent encounters with black bears. Ontarioblackbears.com reports that only seven people are known to have died from Ontario black bear attacks in the last 100 years. The province has a black bear population believed to be 75,000 to 100,000.
My most recent bear encounter confirmed just how fast bears move. They have been clocked at more than 45 kph, which is a lot faster than I can run.
They also are quick and agile tree climbers. So if you meet one, it is a bad idea to run, or to climb a tree. In a bear’s mind, anything running away is weak and likely an easy meal.
A good idea is to stand still and look big and aggressive. Or, if you have just been awakened from a pleasant sleep, you can try acting like a crazy person.