Bear with me…

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You know, every now and then a day just gets waaay more crazy than you expected it to be. Like, this day in your mind was seriously not assigned to turn out this strange.

It all started innocently enough; work was to continue on the homestead, and I would be pressure washing the wainscoting that we pulled from the inside of the teacherage. The last few days here have been so stiflingly hot, even cellular respiration has been a major feat. (we are from the Kootenays, 38C weather with high humidity is NOT our jam…) So waking up today to cool air and a very light drizzle just started this day off amazingly. It was such a refreshing treat!

I confess...I don't even watch lord of the rings. but i thought the reference was appropriate.

I confess…I don’t even watch Lord of the Rings. But I felt the reference was appropriate.

So since Lou (a board member) came in earlier than my shift starts and began working on power washing, thought it might not be a bad idea to go check on how the guys were coming on the project. I might of done a ridiculous little hoppety-jump from excitement when I saw it. I’m not too proud to admit this. Most of this project has been coming along so smooth, but one hang up has seemed to be finding a few darn windows. Apparently with all the Pinterest projects people are going crazy with, all the single pane wood framed windows have been gobbled up. So searching for any has been completely fruitless. That is, until, one of the guys who has been helping out on the project (the same guy that did so much research for our AGM trench dinner) remembered he had 4 windows (exactly what we were looking for) just sitting at home!! Talk about awesome!!

So he went off to find them, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. small/odd sizes, really chippy icky paint, you know the kind.

WELL.

This was not the case!!

They are B-E-A-U-TIFUL!!!!!! no paint…great shape…of course some panes were broken, but that is kind of to be expected after sitting outside for years haha… They are all the same size, and BIG! YAY! And the best part, the caulking was almost already completely off, so it wasn’t a major hassle to scrape and clean them all. So, not only was work outside today, but I got to start restoring windows too!!! That stacks up to super cool in my book.

window

Here is one I just took the windows out of before scraping and initial sanding.

So this was really fun. Just a wet sand, oil stain, re-insert panes and they are good to go! *glee*

But if you think this is all that was going on this day…I’m not done yet…

So the day carries on, and the sun comes out, and it returns to being very, very warm, and because we had that rain in the morning, it gets humid. Ick. But we are still in a good mood from earlier, so this indiscretion by the weather can be mostly overlooked. After finishing what I could on the windows, it was time to finish up the power washing then lunch.

hot, humid day + cool water from a leaky power washer wand =

happy redhead.

That could of been an Ice Tea commercial it was so refreshing. But, I digress. So, get that done then off to lunch I go. Genius me gets inside, sits down to eat, and realizes I forgot a fork…so to the Carr building it is! Now, in case you haven’t ever been here and don’t know where I’m talking about, I was power washing in front of the shed off to the far right on the edge of this picture, (there is another large shed that I could stand the wood up against to dry directly to the right out of the picture) and the Carr building is just diagonal from the bottom right corner of the picture and a hard right. so they aren’t far.

shed

 As I’m crossing the parking lot, some movement in front of the garage door catches my eye…

You can see how obviously shadowed it is around the sheds…and then I noticed fluff. So here I was all ‘Oh wow! That is a ridiculously fluffy dog, it must be so hot! but wait, I only know of two kinds of dogs that walk like that, and one of them isn’t… actually… a dog…ithasnotdogpuppiesTHATSNOTADOGTHATSABEAR!!!!

50 yards in front of me was a little first/second year out mama and her twins!

Wholly moley!

Those of you who know me know animals are basically the spice of my life, and I have an especially fond place for the wildlife we live with in this valley. Put it this way…when I was little, my mom attempted relentlessly to get me to wear dresses and do pretty girly things. But joke was on her, because I am ridiculous. Haha! I was watching National Geographic and Kratt Brothers and Steve Irwin instead of Disney Princesses, I was out chasing grass hoppers and getting rips in my jeans and climbing trees and reading the big encyclopedia of animals as soon as I could figure out the words. And irritating anyone who would listen (or pretend they were listening) about some new facts. I’m surprised I wasn’t put up for adoption.

Black Bears are quite the staple of our eco-system here! Some fun trivia about black bears:

*They have an amazing sense of smell, but their eyesight is actually pretty poor, even though they can see colour

*Their molars are very similar to ours because they are OMNIVORES, which means they eat meat & vegetation/roots, just like people!

  

*Their claws are very similar to a cats, except they do not retract, so they can continue to climb trees after they mature into adults, unlike Grizzly Bears, who’s claws grow longer and straighter. They are also fantastic for digging and manipulating

IMG_0769

*They can live up to 25 years in the wild

*More predominantly in Western ranges, their colours can vary in hue from black, to blue, to cinnamon, to blonde, even white (known as Kermode or Spirit Bear), but the brown/cinnamon does not make it a Brown Bear, that is a different species. (looks more like a grizzly)

So getting to see this fluffy trio at my job sort of in town instantly became the highlight of my day. Even over top of those windows. I know, crazy. We see bears around the area lots, but it generally tends to be in well known areas out of city limits. So this was interesting, but it also was a little startling for a few reasons:

a) We are a public facility that has both user groups and patrons on the property

b) We are a dog friendly facility and the patrons currently on the property have a Chihuahua and a Heeler (herding dog) that I do not know how it will react (I have a Border Collie, they are ‘fairly’ predictable in their patterns, and I know his recall. Heelers are not so much, and I don’t know this dog)

c) Those same people with the dogs also have small children

d) A lot of doors are open, including the Carr building with the Quilters in it (and a lot of food in there too) and the Stone House (it’s a house made of stone-basically a nice, cool, cave) where 2 employees are. A startled mama inside a building is NOT a good idea, no matter how small

e) Although I know we have animals around, it is the middle of the day on a very hot  afternoon so I was NOT expecting her. {Morning, perhaps. Doing stuff in the evenings or at night, sure. But 1pm? Not on the side of a busy highway.}

So all this flashes through my mind in approximately 2 seconds. The one nice thing about being a paramedic is you learn to analyze things very quickly and make sequenced decisions & act on them just about as fast. Oh. and you learn to stay calm. but that was more of a stretch that day because every ounce of wildlife nerd and photographer in me was SCREAMING

“JUST SIT BACK AND LET THEM BE! JUST WATCH THEM!

SRSLY, HOW OFTEN TO YOU SEE THIS NOT IN A CAR?!?!…

AWWWWWEEEEE!!!! THEY ARE SO SMALL!!!!”

But, unfortunately, I couldn’t do that, so still at about 50 yards, some hollering to both the quilters and the girls downstairs to close the doors of the buildings they were in, then my best Luke Bryan concert whistling and clapping to hopefully divert her from the direction she was going. Everyone was inside safe, and it worked, mostly; she turned around and slightly inconveniencedly scooted back around the shed with babes in tow.

A phone call to conservation didn’t work, the number online was out of service, so, call the police! A slightly irritating conversation with the Police dispatcher {really though, how many times do you have to say the number I have doesn’t work?} and finally she gave me the 800 number to call.

1-800-663-WILD (9453)

We only have one C.O. here, and he is generally run off his feet. He is trained in many different ways to deal with wildlife of all shapes and sizes. But since he was tied up, it was up to the police to follow up.

Now, just a little bit of background for you folks…the street I live on is quite the special street. On it, there is 1 house with 2 Paramedics, 4 different Police Officers houses [used to be 6], and used to be [might still be] a retired Conservation Officer on it. Talk about stacked!

So it was one of my neighbors that came to chat with me. I know what the outcome would of been if it had to be the police dealing with this little girl & her cubs. And that is NOT the outcome we want, and it is not the outcome he wanted either; so it was decided to just shut down, keep the place quiet, and hopefully she would move on from her 15m high perch in the neighbors yard off to where she was safe.

But the little wheels in my mind were spinning at this point, and it was getting stuck on a bit of a problem. Black bears by nature are fairly curious, albeit timid beings. Household cats with a bit of attitude have been well recorded scaring these dudes off.

Click this hilarious youtube link for videos —-> Hilarious youtube link

But the thing that I was seeing that genuinely concerned me was a combination of a couple factors.

We are in the middle of a GAUNTLET of danger and things bears generally make it a life skill to avoid…

We are sandwiched in between 2 very busy major highways and a railroad. We are also surrounded by businesses, and residential areas, a 5 min downhill walk from the Creston Flats (agricultural & a little residential) and 10 min from the base of a mountain (cross tracks, a highway I hate crossing in a vehicle never mind on foot and lots of residential on the road to the mountain)

click to make it legible

click to make it legible

So given all this…WHAT IN MERCYS NAME was she doing here? What could of possibly drawn this young bear with her babies to this location?

When a bunch of humans are all making noise, two babies at her side, and she could hardly care less about our presence or the fact that one was acting like a slight psycho in her general direction?

hmm.

I found this picture online, and actually this isn’t far off her size, [ooh! and would ya look at that, she has twins too…]

so this little girl couldn’t of been much more than 3 or 4, and only on her 1st to 2nd year away from mama. Actually, she wasn’t much different than the bear we have in founders hall!

IMG_0768

Drew (my dog) has made peace with this guy, but just can’t do the same with the Grizz in North 40 Outfitters in Sandpoint…

To be this age and this un-concerned? That is a flag. And now her babies are learning this too.

So why exactly would Little Bear behave in this manner?

My first impression would be the increasingly loose attitude of people regarding predatory and scavenging animals. HOLD ON…. before you get all puffed up like an owl woke from its nap and walk away…this isn’t a political soapbox or attack or rant or anything haha…

town

Click on this image to be able to actually see what i’m talking about

Look at how much mountain and wilderness surrounds us. The actual town is so small at the narrow part between the road leading out to the industrial area and actual downtown, you can walk flats to mountain in maybe 30min (tops). Then Canyon, Lister, Erickson, Wynndel, West Creston…these are all outskirts. Farming, Orchards (bears love orchards)…and all right at the base of the mountains or bordering very loosely populated, kind of un-developed areas.

Beings that we are kind of de-conditioned to animals in our back yards, it is natural to forget that providing easy pickings such as garbage out the night before pick-up, bird feeders, humming bird feeders, un-picked up fruit from the tree you really were hoping to get to this week but just couldn’t, all provide a variable smorgasbord that will draw bears, raccoons, skunks and other little 4 legged critters out of their homes for an easier meal.

Remember that omnivore thing? They love to eat just like us, but they are also carrion eaters, so rotting garbage leftovers is no big thing!

I would absolutely hate to see Little Mama Bear and/or her cubs, or any other wildlife for that matter, hurt for no reason in particular. So what are some things we can do to help keep them where they belong and are safest?

-Firstly, obviously, do not put your garbage out the night before, and if possible, keep it in a cool, difficult to access place

-Keep compost in a closed, difficult to access container in a cool place away from the house

-Although we love to watch birds at feeders, bears also love the high fat/carb nuts & seeds provided in them. Choose feeders that are spill proof, place them in very high and outstretched locations (remember, black bears are great climbers), and try and keep the ground below them clean

-Do not leave excess fruit from fruit trees on the ground. The fresh and decomposing fruit is wonderfully sweet (many animals have a sweet tooth), so not only will you have lots of critters coming for an easy snack, you may also end up with drunk ones, which, if they can still see straight, may basically be that one person at the bar who always wants to start a fight.

-Keep pet food in-doors

-NEVER. EVER. EVER. feed or intentionally try to get close to wildlife.They may look cute and cuddly and you may have seen Austin Stevens do it a million times, but remember: He is a professional in animal behavior & handling. You, have watched discovery channel. The animal may start out curious, but then become spooked or uncomfortable and react in an unpredictable manner. Over time if enough people enter it’s space with positive rewards (no physical harm, food, etc) the animal will become desensitized. Then, when it does become a problem, or does not get what it wants, aggressive behavior may happen and then nobody wins!

So, until next time, lets all do our part to help keep these most incredible and beautiful creatures we share our home with happy, healthy, and safe.

I leave you with a lady who wants to help the deer with their road crossings.

(make sure you are not drinking/eating and there is a bathroom near because you might pee from laughing so hard)

CHEERS!