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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

A bear!

Posted on 2011.08.17 at 11:01
Tags: , ,

There's bears in them thar hills!

Yesterday evening, in deep dusk after a day of storms, I was reading in bed when my husband came dashing in to show me a photo he'd just taken of a black bear in our yard. Except for one that passed through the corner of the yard last summer, we haven't seen a bear in our yard for years, and have never got a good picture of the event. My husband was sitting in the dining room when he noticed a couple of young women standing in the street, snapping photos with their phones. A good-sized bear was heading into our yard. Seeing it was going to go pass between our house and the next, a narrow strip, he ran to get the camera. He snapped his photo from the side porch, just in time. "It was moving fast, all wet from the rain, and hustled into the trees at the back. I didn't get to take a second shot."

Here's the photo he took of the bear passing between our strip of river rock and the neighbour's wood pile (covered with plastic camouflage material):


For a side view of a black bear, here's a photo my husband took in July 2005, while taking a walk through the neighbourhood. In broad daylight, a bear passed the front door of a house a few blocks away:


Duluth, although it is not a tiny city (about 80,000 people), is situated on the shore of a huge lake surrounded by mostly unpopulated land. There are small towns scattered about, but mostly there is forested or boggy land. I think that's why so much wildlife can be seen right in town. Rabbits, for instance -- though rabbits live anywhere. Rabbits are so plentiful I haven't bothered to take photos of them. Some years they are like lawn ornaments. But we've been seeing foxes lately, too, which may explain the recent drop in rabbit sightings. And deer. Have I mentioned we have have lots of deer? There is a bow hunt in the city limits every year to try to control the number. They are very pretty but very bold and great eaters of landscaping.

Here is a doe with a brand new fawn, taken in June. Yesterday while making dinner, I saw a doe with two spotted fawns, bigger than this one, of course, walking down the middle of the street. They seemed unconcerned by the occasional cars passing, merely moving onto adjacent lawns as they went by:


Here's a nice shot my husband took of a young deer just standing and looking at him, quite close, while he took the picture. This was taken February 2009:


Here's a great shot my husband got in August 2008 of a beautiful buck, his antlers still in velvet. My husband crept through the greenery between the houses on the next block to take the picture:


Here's another handsome buck, photographed in the alley behind the houses across the street. This was taken in the fall (November 2004), its antlers without velvet:


In the old days, four-legged predators killed deer -- lynx, bob cats and mountain lions, now seldom sighted -- and wolves. Hunting in packs, wolves could even bring down a moose, if it was young or old or weak (moose have been seen in town, but very rarely; their recent decline is being studied). Nearly brought to extinction in Minnesota, wolves have made a come-back, but they are seldom seen.

My husband took this photo of a wolf from his father's truck, spotted in the woods as they drove down a two-lane country highway, returning from a fishing trip in September 2005. How lucky they were to see a wolf -- alive, not in captivity -- and to snap of picture of it.


Not all the wildlife is big. Here's an Eastern chipmunk ("chippy-buddies", the kids call them). This one is living in the retaining wall around the patio. I took his photo when he came out to have a scratch. They are very cute, very amusing, but their burrows can undermine structures, naughty things:


And here's one of the most exotic predators we've seen in our neighbourhood. I saw him on our wall, September 2005, and dashed out with a camera to take his picture:


Ha ha! I think this cat must have had a seriously burred or matted coat to be thus sheered. "Look," we cried, "a lion-cat!" I've seen it in years since, its coat grown out, a very handsome beast.



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pearlette at 2011-08-17 16:16 (UTC) (Link)
Beautiful! I love wild critters.

Bears!!! How exciting. :)

And a WOLF! :)

That cat. :D He's a gorgeous beastie, weird sheering or no. :D

What's the difference between a ground squirrel and a chipmunk?

I loved chipmunks when I visited the USA. Saw them in Vermont and Pennsylvania. Cute little critters. I also saw a porcupine in the woods of Pennsylvania, and a skunk crossing the road in Boston!

P.S. Did you hear about the British teenager on an expedition in the Arctic who was killed by a polar bear? :( The bear was starving, poor creature, and attacked the boy in his tent. Just horrible. The bear was shot after the attack. I was sorry for it, but sorrier for the boy's family. How awful for them.
mechtild at 2011-08-17 16:59 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for asking about the Minnesota ground squirrel, Pearl. When we moved here I told a neighbor, from the area, "aren't the chipmunks cute?" He corrected me, "No, that's a Minnesota ground squirrel". So I have been calling them that since. Because you asked, however, I looked the animal up on the internet. There is a particular species of ground squirrel native to Minnesota, with thirtreen stripes, extremely pretty, but with a bit of fluff on its tail. But the one in my picture, and the ones all over our area, are Eastern chipmunks. However, to give the neighbour some credit, the chipmunk articles begin by identifying chipmunks as "striped ground squirrels" generally.

Yes, I read about the polar bear attack. Polar bears are particularly dangerous, I think, like other completely wild bears. There are attacks by black bears, but usually sows with cubs. Otherwise the bear in human-populated areas tend to mind their own business if you don't bother them. They also are omnivores, mostly eating non-meat diets. Not so for polar bears. They're completely wild, and completely flesh-eaters. When I have gone hikings in the West, I have always been a little nervous, careful to be noisy on trails, because of other species of bears that live there, wild, and known to dine on humans if tasted. The advice is to make noise so that you don't startle a bear into an attack. I think once they start chomping on you, in most cases, that's it.

I have seen dead porcupines on the road, but never a living one, in its habitat. Same with beavers, woodchucks, and possums. There were loads of skunks and racoons where we lived in San Francisco, so we were always catching sight of them (or smelling them - ew). No bear there, though. :)
shirebound at 2011-08-17 17:25 (UTC) (Link)
Oh my goodness, what marvelous pictures! I would be thrilled to see any of those critters.
mechtild at 2011-08-17 17:58 (UTC) (Link)
I love the critter in your icon. :)
primula_baggins at 2011-08-17 17:46 (UTC) (Link)
Wow, fantastic! Nature is so beautiful, isn't it?

I feel like crying when I hear of a wild animal that is shot because it's in a neighborhood. We moved into their world, but we cannot stand having them around us? It kinda makes me sick. But I don't make the rules. :/

I guess I wouldn't want a coyote killing my dog, either.

mechtild at 2011-08-17 18:17 (UTC) (Link)
It's sad, very sad, when a wild animal in town gets shot. In a way I can't count deer, as most of the ones we see really do live here in town, having migrated here from the forest to live, the bird feeders and domestic plants and vegetables a strong draw, living here generation after generation, so they're not truly wild, not like a moose that wanders in through the green space and gets stuck in a street, standing there terrified or crashing into parked cars and shops in a panic).

A young male bear was shot on the lake walk a few years ago. There was quite a stink. But there were tourists everywhere, and no where for the bear to get away, hemmed in between the lake and retaining walls, narrower and narrower as it approached downtown. People said, why didn't they tranquilize it and take it into the country? That was my question. They wished they had, later, if only for public relations. But when feeling died down people who work with wild life said that trying to relocate animals, especially bears, was almost always a failure. Bears, it was argued, are extremely territorial. You couldn't just plonk a strange one, a male, especially a young inexperienced one, in the habitat of some other male. It would be killed or chased until it starved or killed by a male in the next habitat. A sow bear hibernated under someone's porch a few years back; they didn't try to get it out but let it give birth to her cubs and stay there. The people who lived there were not thrilled but they didn't want the spectacle of bear slaughtered on their front lawn, either. In spring, when the beer began to truly wake, ready to come out and feed, they did tranquilize the mother and cub and they were moved to the country. Even then they said it wouldn't be a sure thing, that they might not be accepted in the new place, but it would be more likely to work than if it were a male. Animal relocation doesn't work, either, if the animal is released too near. If the animal has made town its home, it will simply come back.

I guess I wouldn't want a coyote killing my dog, either.

Pets have been killed by predators, yes. Not just land predators but birds. Small pets have been carried off by eagles. And a dog, a retriever, I think a Lab, brought down a deer in someone's driveway. People couldn't believe it. Deer can put up a big fight and dogs don't typically hunt deer on their own, especially not by themselves. The dog was not rabid.

A bobcat was killed last year by a homeowner for [nearly] killing its pets - some special geese in this case, which were living in the man's garage in a pen. He'd left the door up to do a few things, heard a lot of carrying on and came back to see his geese being attacked by a huge cat. He ran and got a gun and shot it. He said he was sorry to shoot, because bobcats are beautiful in their own right and necessary for the environmental balance, but if it came to a choice between his geese or the cat, the cat would have to go.
belleferret at 2011-08-17 17:48 (UTC) (Link)
I never saw a bear in the wild when I lived in Duluth, but did have a wolf run across the road in front of me once. Ah and I remember the time a young moose was wandering around downtown!
mechtild at 2011-08-17 18:20 (UTC) (Link)
Well, times have changed. Now Duluth is bear country. Bears smashed my birdfeeders twice, and the first summer we lived here (1999), we looked up to see a big black bear strolling right through the corner of the back yard -- and we were there working in it! It was the middle of the day. Bears only make the news if they create a situation. Wolves make the paper if they are merely sighted.

I've heard about the moose. It's sad and funny, a moose stuck in the middle of downtown, but how frightened it must have been. (Unlike deer, which don't seem to be intimidated by town life.)
elasg at 2011-08-17 17:53 (UTC) (Link)
That's at least a 400lb bear... probably more. A big male getting fat on people's trash, most likely. Be careful, they can be unpredictable and quite dangerous. (Look who's asking you to be careful...LOL!)

The wolf is NEAT! We haven't seen wolves around here in ages. The only things we have are bobcats and even the big one I saw in Paddy's Run the other year couldn't match a wolf. Very cool!
mechtild at 2011-08-17 18:25 (UTC) (Link)
The bears are very bold here. I won't get near one, believe me. I don't think Glen would have gone out there to take that photo if he hadn't been standing on the side porch. But who knows, men can be fools. :) There have been very few reports of attacks by black bears in our area, although there are so many. But most people are not stupid and keep their distance. Last summer I was sitting in the patio with Angelo, our cat that died last year, and Glen called me from the house, "Linda, don't move but look up, to your left." There was a bear, in the next yard, heading to the corner of our lots, to go up the hill, probably. "What should I do?" I hissed. "Get up slowly and come inside." I picked up poor old Angelo as quietly as I could and hot footed it in through the side porch door. Glen said it didn't even look at me. They are that used to being around people.

I hope you can see a wolf one day. Me, too. I've only seen them in zoos or stuffed in glass cases.
mole_caz at 2011-08-17 18:20 (UTC) (Link)
Wow! What a surprise! I would love to see a bear like this (inside and safely away from attack of course)! All we get in our garden are sparrows, the odd cat and the occasional frog looking for the pool that once was sited at the far corner of our garden long before the houses on our estate were built.
mechtild at 2011-08-17 18:27 (UTC) (Link)
It's neat to see a bear - from far away! :)
lijahlover at 2011-08-17 20:04 (UTC) (Link)
Yay thanks for posting all these great pictures of the cool animals :)
mechtild at 2011-08-17 22:24 (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome. :)
not_alone at 2011-08-17 20:40 (UTC) (Link)
What stunning pics, Mechtild! I find it hard to imagine seeing a bear taking a stroll in our garden!! The most exciting thing we've ever had is foxes and we haven't seen one of those for ages; squirrels and birds are now our main inhabitants. I particularly love the deer pics - the one taken in Feb 09 where he's staring into the camera is so amazing - and that spotted fawn is just too adorable for words!!
mechtild at 2011-08-17 22:30 (UTC) (Link)
Well, you don't live in a small city in the middle of northern wastes, either. Of course there are no bears! Do you ever imagine, just for fun, what England might have been like in the days when there still were bear and boar and wolves? Where you live wouldn't exist, of course, but you could imagine yourself in a home of the day, whether humble or wealthy.

Glen took a lot of lovely photos of that group of deer that day. They could make a post all by themselves! They let him come very close, all of them young, half-tame deer that hang out in a park near a breakwater on Lake Superior, not far from where he works in a small town up the shore, about 25 miles from here. It seems there is a small herd that lives in that park. I've taken friends on the little walking trail that goes through it before and sometimes have come across some of the deer. They stand right in the path and don't move off into the trees until you are nearly face to face. If you stand still they just stay where they are, browsing the leaves and twigs.

Edited at 2011-08-17 10:31 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2011-08-17 22:35 (UTC) (Link)
Plenty of deer and foxes? Sounds like where my mother and brother live, the VA suburbs southwest of D.C. Even in the midst of where my mom lives, terribly crowded with people and housing developments and condos and shopping centers and business and industrial parks, all cheek by jowl, and intense non-stop traffic, deer seem not only to live but thrive. My brother's suburb is further away, where it was truly the country when my parents moved to the area. There they see not only deer but foxes, racoons and beavers. Perhaps your area is like his.
jan_u_wine at 2011-08-18 01:34 (UTC) (Link)
I think I'm more frightened of the chipmunk than the bear: he looks mad as a hatter!
mechtild at 2011-08-18 02:01 (UTC) (Link)
Awwww, they're cuuuuuute. He's just animated and intent, scratching. :)
Jo Ann
yeuxdebleu at 2011-08-18 01:58 (UTC) (Link)
Wow! Gorgeous photos. I would never think there would be so much wildlife in the suburban area where you live.

I'm in northern New Hampshire and our property abuts the White Mountain National Forest so my backyard looks like a wildlife park most of the time. It's so commonplace that I don't even take photos anymore.

We have a lot of black bears and I take down my birdfeeders at twilight then put them back out in the morning. I've lost way too many to the bears (and raccoons) in the past.

We don't have wolves that I know of, but we have coyotes, foxes, bobcats, wolverines, fisher cats and tons of deer, moose and wild turkeys. We have a large pond that attracts herons and one flew right in front of me today as I was turning into the driveway. They're big!!!

That cat is gorgeous. I'm glad his fur has grown out now, poor thing.
mechtild at 2011-08-18 02:12 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, take pictures, take pictures, take pictures! If we have wildlife, it sounds like your home is in the middle of Wild Kingdom!!!!

Yes, we do have a lot of wildlife for living within the city limits. But as I was saying to a commenter above, Duluth, though a city of 80,000, sits all by itself in northern Minnesota. There are only a scattering of towns inland from it, and a few strung up the shore. All of them are small. The rest of this area for a hundred miles in every direction (except toward the lake) is northern forest and bogs, and small bits of farmed or graising land. And even though this is a city with a downtown and densely populated neighborhoods, the city, built along the hillside slanting into the lake, is very long but very narrow. There's no part of it that isn't "close" to the wild areas beyond the rim of the hill. And the hillsides are cut by little forested ravines through which creeks and brooks flow into the lake. Wildlife come up and down these without being seen, as well as along the overgrown train tracks that run along the lake in and out of town, another thoroughfare for wildlife.

Edited at 2011-08-18 02:13 am (UTC)
mariole at 2011-08-18 02:37 (UTC) (Link)
What a wonderful post!!!! I loved your wildlife shots-- those bears are not to be believed. So big! Something so wild about seeing them on the lawn.

I often visit Boulder (just 20 minutes from here) and they, too, have a huge deer population. It's not unusual for me to stop my car as a doe and fawn, or a whole family, or a small herd, passes by. They are murder on gardens, but so lovely.

We have many rabbits in my neighborhood as well. A fox denned for several years just one block over, but she's moved on. Now, the coyotes come in. I saw one several times about 8 in the morning, trotting down the sidewalk as businesslike as you please. Which is why my kitties stay in at night.

Wonderful post.
mechtild at 2011-08-18 21:42 (UTC) (Link)
Gosh, you really liked this, didn't you. I'm so pleased. I love your outdoor travel posts. Did I ever tell you my daughter loved reading your account of seeing all the wildlife in the Galapagos? She said she'd definitely do it -- later (later because hanging out with a bunch of buddies is her primary pleasure in life, and she didn't think the trip sounded suited for a bunch of people drinking and being rowdy and burning bonfires on the beach).

Coyotes are bigger than I had thought. There was a dead animal on the road, which I thought sizable, but not as big as a wolf. I commiserated over the death of someone's dog when my husband said, that's not a dog, that's a coyote. I think my only exposure to coyotes is from a Walt Disney nature movie, "Chico the Misunderstood Coyote". I don't know why, maybe because he was always evading mounted cowboys with guns, I pictured coyotes smaller, like larger foxes.

Rachel, my daughter, and I drove through the Boulder area moving her to CA last May. We went on some gorgeous drives leaving town as we headed west. I am not certain but I think we headed out on 119, a beautiful winding road through a narrow river canyon, down to the main highway, then up 40 to continue through Utah. It was snowing up in the pass, it looked just like winter. Wow, it was a super pair of roads to drive on that day, with its dramatic, unsettled weather.
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2011-08-18 03:44 (UTC) (Link)
Heee--the bears just sauntering about! Would be cute if they couldn't kill you.

That fawn's so pretty! (-: I had a nice deer encounter on one of my walks here last week.

Poor shaved kitty! (-:
mechtild at 2011-08-18 21:44 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, bears can be so.... fatal. :)

Was your deer encounter around the lake, the one that had the brush trimmed back so severely?

Kitty's fur grew back fine. When I saw him the next year, prowling his domain, he had a long thick coat. A beautiful long-hair, he is. (Or she, come to think of it - I didn't pick it up and check.)
maewyn_2 at 2011-08-18 12:14 (UTC) (Link)
Oh my, that bear's VERY close! Its fur looks very thin - summer coat, I assume.

You have a lot of animals wandering through your garden! I remember seeing the other bear photo and the deer.

It's very tame here, in comparison. Aside from birds, over the years, the largest wild creatures we've had in our yard are a 1.5m dugite snake and a bobtail lizard. :)
mechtild at 2011-08-18 21:46 (UTC) (Link)
A 1.5 meter snake! Yikes! Was it a poisonous variety?

I thought the bear's fur looked thin, too, since it seems his skin is visible. My husband said in person he had a good coat, but it had rained so hard that afternoon and evening, perhaps he was, as they say, "soaked to the skin".
julchen11 at 2011-08-19 16:10 (UTC) (Link)
Wow! Fantastic pics, my dear. Are you really sure you don't live in The Shire?
The only "wild" animal crossing our garden now and then is a fox, a very shy little fox I have to say.
We had 4 of them in 2003 and they killed 30 of our hens. We couldn't do anything against it because he had babies so the haunters had to wait until they were old enough to haunt on their own until they shot (!!!) them! If I would have known that I'd never had said a single word.
mechtild at 2011-08-19 17:57 (UTC) (Link)
Why did they wait for the babies to grow up to shoot them? Seems more, not less cruel, to wait until they're old enough to begin to get out there and enjoy life, polishing off their own chickens. Better to kill them before they find out how fun the world is. Or did you mean they waited to kill the mother until the babies were grown?

We have a few foxes here, or they've been seen. I saw a nice looking red fox trot through the yard earlier this year. A neighbor down the block in back of us has chickens. I don't think it's legal to have chickens in town, but I can hear them clucking (I love chicken sounds, but some of the neighbours don't and want to report them). Maybe they're trying to get the chickens?

My sister lives just outside of a small town (in northern CA, not near here) and has had chickens for decades. She loses them to foxes and skunks and racoons, in spite of a sturdy hen house and a big, good pen with wire netting over the top. Even her own dog slaughtered half a dozen, when someone left the door to the coop open and they got out. She was slinking around guiltily for weeks afterwards, she was scolded so soundly.

I think you have to have the right attitude to keep chickens, they seem to get killed so easily by predators, or need to be put down because of chicken illnesses. It's lovely to hear them, and to see them, though, many of them are so pretty, and there's the lovely eggs, of course. :)

Edited at 2011-08-19 06:00 pm (UTC)
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