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Thursday, May 3, 2018

WTF - And Then I Saw The Bear

Everyone remembers the words from the Jimmy Buffet song, but here in the High Country we actually live it!

Spring has finally made an appearance on the mountain and with that the local wildlife make their appearance, including those white shaved legs coming out of hiding from their winter slumber in long underwear!

Coming out of hibernation along with the animals are the local tourists of Beech Mountain, cars with "fruit plates" making their way slowly up and down the mountain. I've been know to utter a few choice words as I smell someone's brakes smoking.

Beech Mountain also has it's "rush minutes" times where all cars stop usually for a gaggle of turkeys, or geese and yes, the bears.

When the bears wake up from their slumber they are hungry, not just hungry but HANGRY and the first thing they go for is the trash cans. We've had one looking through our kitchen door wondering what that wonderful smell was, we didn't offer it a piece of pizza.

Most houses on Beech Mountain have wooden trash bins holding two trash cans sitting in front of the house. Tourists take their trash out leaving them in these wooden bins, not thinking of the local wildlife.

This is the dinner bell to animals, the buffet is now stocked and ready to go. Hangry bears move slowly down the street, hitting every available trash can, spreading the trash everywhere. This trash is then eaten by other local wildlife including most family pets. Honestly, my dog once pooped out a Slim Jim wrapper on a long walk. Thank God it didn't necessitate a visit to the vet.

This availability of trash brings local wildlife close to people getting them used to people being their food supply. This is not a good scenario when the sows have their babies and during your evening walk you've got a protective Momma with her brood rooting through the trash.  I've started my morning commute driving around trash bins in the middle of the road, trash strewn around them.

The town set out covering the wooden trash bins with wooden lids. This solved the problem with raccoons and crows but the bears were not deterred. The wooden lid was considered an inconvenience as the bears ripped the sides of the bins off, even pushing a few down a hill until they busted open for their midnight buffet. The lids, though a good idea, did not stop the flow of trash into our beautiful forests.

How did I solve my bear problem? Here's my advice. The town dump is on the way off the mountain. When not feeling lowlandaphobia and traveling off Beech Mountain, I do a quick stop at the dump for my trash, my recycling and a little bit of treasure hunting. (If you've read my book you'll know all about dumpster diving on Beech) This does not send the bears away, but it keeps the trash out of my yard, letting the bears follow the trash over to the dump. I also bring in my bird feeders at night as these also will attract raccoons and bears and other critters during the night.

If you are a visitor and want to keep Beech Mountain beautiful, consider taking your trash to the dump rather than leaving it in a wooden bin, lid or no lid. If you can't take your trash to the dump, then set it out the morning of your pickup, after the bears have gone to bed. Also remember, tourists see the bears as a tourist attraction, many taking pictures at their feeding sights (the town dump and other dumpsters on the mountain) these are wild animals who are not fond of the paparazzi, especially a Momma protecting her babies, use your zoom lens and be aware.

Finally, I don't let bear season stop my love of hiking on Beech Mountain. You'll normally not encounter a bear during the day hiking but remember making noise, letting everyone know you are coming helps animals move out of your path. Some recommend bear spray but my thought process is this, if you have to be ten feet away for the spray to work, I'm either going to miss or miss because I am running. There's an ongoing joke on the mountain, you can tell baby bears are around by all the berries in their poop, Momma bears by the cans of bear spray in her poop.

So enjoy our little slice of paradise properly, keep the trash contained and let the wild animals do what they are designed to do. That also includes those wild animals you meet at the Skybar during a beautiful Saturday concert!

How do you deal with bears?

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