Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What is it with Bears?

It's been a long hot summer and an assortment of animals are now coming down to our small town of Monrovia. Deer sampling our rose bushes, dropping off ticks and lyme disease and some of the usual suspects - raccoons, skunks, grey foxes and the poor misunderstood and reviled possum. Now bears.

Bears post a bigger problem for obvious reasons. There is a famous Monrovia Bear, Samson the Hot Tub bear, an older, apparently toothless (how did they find that out?) that used to be a frequent uninvited guest at the Potter (no relation to Harry Potter) family pool and and hot tub. All was going well for Samson until one day he imbibed to much. Somehow he ingested a black garbage bag which went in a lot better than it ended up going out.

Mr Potter found him one day with a black garbage bag poking out of his butt groaning, clutching his stomach and rolling around the yard and he called animal services. Poor Samson. Luckily for him, because he was so old and because of public outcry, he was walled up in a concrete cage in a zoo to live out his natural life instead of being euthanized. And, to make his stay a little more comfortable, the good people of Monrovia and Arcadia raised enough money so he could have his very own, built to order, bear hot tub. Once it was unveiled, the first thing Samson did was go sit in it. Very cute. In honor of Samson, every Christmas, cut out Samson bears decorate one street close to where we live.

The bear motherlode, the Chocolate Dilemma from Trader Joes.

However, as cute of a story Samson is, bears in neighborhoods are generally not good news. About a month ago, a bear walked down our street, and turned over every trash can for about a block. He stopped at our yard I theorize because he hit the motherlode - a complete, albeit frost bitten, Trader Joe's Cheesecake sampler was in our bin. We're not sure what happened exactly, but given the evidence we're guessing he opened the trash can and instead of dining in situ on the driveway, dragged the bag onto the lawn, tore it open and had a proper midnight picnic. Now of course goodies such as this languish in our fridge until garbage day.

The city has not yet issued us bear resistant garbage cans but it might be a good idea. One resident closer to the mountains tried to make his own bear resistant trash can. He used that industrial strength webbing - criss-crossed all over the trash can but, the bear made mince meat of it - tearing the webbing off and leaving it scattered as if it were paper ribbon on a Christmas day. Now their trash can is permanently in their garage until garbage day. He says it smells awful but it's better than coming home with a bear in your yard.

A few weeks ago, the bear issue escalated. Some bears who were eating dog/cat food that was either left out for someone's cats and dogs or for them, went bad and started breaking into houses and trashing them in their search for food. Shortly after the blazen act of of bear vandalism, we got a warning call from the city.

Then, yesterday, a bear was found lounging on someone's yard about a block from our house, drinking from the sprinkler like it was a water fountain. He attracted not only a lot of neighbors (I missed him) but the Monrovia police too. I heard he was non-plussed about all the humans which was not good for him. I don't know what happened to him.

I really hope no one is feeding the bears here. I understand they have a cuteness to them - but when they get to used to our great garbage they start equating food with us. It's like when the Chicken Hawk on Looney Tunes used to see Foghorn Leghorn, like a baked chicken on the plate. The bear sees us the same way, except the plate is bigger and we're not baked. There's no good end for the bear either. The poor animals are euthanized when they get too used to humans. The worst of it, is that it is really not their fault.

Nevertheless, despite the information highway, information like proper respect for large, wild animals, there are plenty of humans still proving out Darwinian Evolution. Remember the Grizzly Man, Timothy Treadmill? Eaten. Both him and his girlfriend after trying to hang with bears after a low berry season. Recently there was an elderly woman in Ouray, Colorado who was also eaten. She kept feeding the bears despite repeated requests from the Colorado Division of Wildlife to stop. She actually had a screen built around her porch to protect herself - which clearly didn't work. Her downfall was that she decided to settle a dispute between two bears, a small one and a big one. The big one already had beaten the crap out of the little one and knocked out some of his teeth but this didn't deter the woman. She obviously still felt she could teach the big bear a lesson. What happened next is really no surprise. The big ornery bear got pissed off at her meddling, killed her, dragged her through the screen and ate part of her. When she was found, the authorities ended up killing two bears. The first one's tummy was relatively empty but the second bear had part of her and her shirt in his tummy.

Obviously it is a tragedy for all involved. You have people who obviously have a great love for animals but their energy is so misdirected. But what I don't get is what does it take for people to understand - a bear is not your friend!?

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