I tried taking some pictures somewhere during the course of this event, but they all came out blurry - probably because it was getting dark and the batteries were dying. So, to make a visual recreation, I used one of my photos of the pond as a backdrop and I've cut and pasted some other photos and stick figures. DON'T JUDGE ME!! I AM TRYING TO DO THIS AT WORK!!
After the Yankees/Red Sox game on Friday night, shopping and planting all day Saturday and doing spinning demos with Spin City at the Queens Farm Sheep Shearing on Sunday, I was ready for a nice, relaxing evening before having to start another work week. Scott was helping friends move upstate all day, so he picked me up at the train, we went out to dinner, picked up a few things at Shop Rite and went home.
It was dusk, so I figured I would take a few minutes to go out to the pond and see if there were any turtles or frogs still hanging around. There weren’t – we usually see them more during the day. There were about 10 geese hanging out on the pond with one mallard trying to fit into the crowd. I did one last scan for amphibians and was about to turn to go back to the house when I heard something walking toward me under the trees. I turned to see a HUGE black bear WITH HER CUBS about 20 feet away from me! I felt like I may as well have been covered in barbecue sauce because I was convinced I was going to be dinner.
This is about how far I actually was from the bear:
And this is how far it felt like I was from the bear:
It seemed so surreal at first, because about a month ago I had EXACTLY this dream! I was outside and did not notice there was a bear near me until he was uncomfortably close. Unfortunately, I woke up right after that, so I didn’t even have any answers – just a weird bit of déjà vu to add to my “OH SHIT!” feeling. I had to figure out what to do.
I was too far from the house to get there safely and unnoticed. Should I stand there and let them walk by? Yeah, that’d work. Bears never eat anything standing still. Lie down and play dead? That only works in cartoons. I definitely knew that I should NOT run! Bear food usually runs and I did NOT want to look like food! Confront her hoping she’ll run away? If I knew she’d run, that would be a good option, but I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to risk pissing her off – she was a lot bigger and could easily kick my ass. Climbing a tree was out – I can’t climb trees and bears are excellent climbers. I did the only thing I could do – I backed away slowly toward the gazebo – I needed to put something – anything – between me and her. She was still walking in my direction, but not quickly or threateningly. I kept inching backward until I was next to the gazebo and slipped through the screen flap.
Okay, so now how do I get out of here? If I stay still in here they might walk past and not see me because of the screen. But she had stopped coming toward me – she was just hanging out under one of the trees. Why was I out here by myself? Scott didn’t even know I was outside. If I had my cell phone I could call the house, but I didn’t. Why didn’t I have my cell phone with me? This is why we should always go outside together – because it’s when you’re talking and making noise that the bears don’t want to be – WAIT!!! THAT’S IT!!!! Bears don’t like people noise! I needed Scott’s help anyway, so I stood in the corner of the gazebo and screamed as loud as I could “SCOTT!!!” No reply. I kept screaming for him – I figured eventually someone would hear me and come to help. The bear looked in my direction like “What’s that screamy thing over there?” but she stayed under the same tree. I saw her, but I didn’t see the cubs. Where did they go? I was sure she had cubs with her.
FINALLY, I thought I heard Scott yell “DONNA???” inside the house and I yelled back “SCOTT!! HELP ME!! I’M OUTSIDE!!” The next thing I saw was the screen door folding over as he burst through it and into the yard. He looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator- at least that's what I pictured.
“WHERE ARE YOU?” he yelled. I forgot he couldn’t see me through the screen because it was getting dark.
“I’M IN THE GAZEBO BUT THERE’S A BEAR BY THE POND!”
He looked over and saw the bear. “She’s beautiful!” 0_o That’s nice, but I didn’t want to talk about how beautiful she was, I wanted to talk about getting me the fuck out of there! “Stay right there – I’ll be back” he told me. Like where would I go? He went back in the house for what seemed like an eternity and came out with a sickle and a machete. He started walking toward the bear clanging them together and yelling “Get outta here!” to try to get her to leave. She walked back a few steps, but stayed close to the same tree. Scott was a few steps from the door of the gazebo at this point and said “Come out toward me.” I walked slowly over to him but did not take my eyes off the bear. We inched toward the house while she stared at us from the base of the tree. I was finally able to get safely inside the house. Now I could breathe.
Apparently, I had a bit of memory FAIL at this point. I originally thought he had the machete and sickle when he first came outside. He was actually holding a can of air freshener, so in reality, it was more like this:
So, back at the house I couldn’t believe that with all the noise we made that our upstairs neighbors weren’t out on their porch wondering what happened. Scott called to Ed, Breda and their kids and they came to the window. “I thought you’d want to see this” Scott said, pointing to the bear now laying down at the base of the tree. Everyone thought it was really cool. I agreed – from this distance – not from out by the pond where I was earlier! “This is cool” Ed said “but I don’t want her to be comfortable here. I think we should chase her away.” They decided to use the lawn mower to make noise, so Ed and Scott ran into the shed to get the mower.
When they came out I said “Just be careful because I saw cubs with her”. Ed walked over to the woods to see if he could see where they were, but they were nowhere to be found. I knew I saw cubs- I was sure of it! I wouldn’t have been quite as scared if I didn’t see the cubs. I didn’t want either of the guys to accidentally get too close to them – wherever they were hiding – and set off mom.
They started up the mower and pushed it toward the bear under the tree. I thought “This is what we have to do to get Ed to mow the lawn?” 0.o As they approached her she sprang to her feet and scaled the tree trunk up into the boughs where we couldn’t see her. Ed and Scott ran to the base of the tree to see how far she had climbed. “That’ll suck if a 400 lb. bear falls on you” I thought. But they knew what they were doing. I guess.
They started up the mower again and were pushing it around the base of the tree when Ellie – Ed’s 12 year old daughter – came running out into the yard screaming “STOP!! STOP!! THE BABIES ARE IN THE TREE!!” They stopped the mower and everyone looked up at the tree mama bear had climbed. She was too well hidden to be seen. I looked toward the top of the tree, but still couldn’t see anything moving.
Then I looked at the next tree over and sure enough there were 5 little black lumps hugging the tree trunk way up near the top, inching their way higher. I wasn’t crazy! I only saw 3 initially, but there were definitely 5 cubs! I didn’t want them to fall out of the tree or get hurt. We decided we needed to let them climb down on their own, which wasn’t going to happen with all of us outside making noise. The guys put the mower away and we all went back in the house.
I grabbed a glass of wine and Scott and I went out on the enclosed porch. Mama was down from the tree already waiting. Shortly, one by one, we saw five little silhouettes scurry backward down the tree trunk and spring onto the ground next to mom. You could hear their little claws scraping the tree bark the whole way down. They were really cute – what I could see of them in the dark. I wish I had noticed them more when I saw them up close, but my brain was elsewhere. Below is a diagram of the thought patterns of the human brain when encountering a mother bear with her cubs:
Mom led the crew around the pond to the driveway, having to stop several time for the last 2 cubs who wanted to climb every tree on the way. They finally hit the driveway and headed up the mountain into the park.
I’m really glad nobody was hurt and it was such an awesome thing to see. I hope mom finds a quieter place to feed her cubs. I still can’t help thinking what bear fur would be like to spin. Not gonna happen. Shearing would definitely piss off a bear!