A Guide to Bear Proofing: One Woman's Fight to Keep the Bears Away
Apparently there are bears in my neighborhood. BEARS. Okay, one bear sighting, but I’m pretty sure this was not a selling feature of the community. All winter long, I listened to coyotes howl in the nearby woods and thought that was the extent of our wildlife…well, and the daddy long legs who spin their webs in corners that can’t be reached, angled in such a way that no broom handle can fit into the corner to kill them. But Coyotes and Spiders…I can handle that. I can’t/don’t handle bears.
A bear sighting has made me realize, I’ve got to take some precautions to protect my family. Being unprepared is no excuse. We have to bear proof…now.
I read up on bears immediately. I wanted to find out their feeding habits, predators, likes, dislikes, Twitter handles…anything I could use against them in the event of a bear invasion.
Here are the precautions I’ve taken and maybe you should do the same.
The only thing I did know about bear proofing prior to becoming Wikipedia certified on the subject was that you have to keep food away from them. That means I had to get my food up off the ground…and quickly.
I know technically you should hang your food up in a tree or from hooks, or buy bear proof containers (which is apparently not a feature of the Lock and Lock), but I thought using the second floor of our house was basically the same thing. I spent the morning dragging all of our groceries upstairs. All the cereal, crackers and pasta noodles are now upstairs in my master bathroom. I put up a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs for good measure (if I can't figure out how to open a baby gate, a bear's not gonna either) and figure that by encasing the food in the shower, there is an extra layer of protection by having the door there.
I did leave a box of Spanish rice and a can of fat free refried beans in the pantry in the off chance that the bear did come in the house. Perhaps he would think that was all we had and leave quickly, keying our cars on the way down the driveway for having such lame food. Also, since I don’t like Spanish rice and refried beans I thought this would be better than throwing it away and being wasteful. It’s the circle of life, people.
After that, I figured it was time to get educated.
Allegedly, bears have no natural predators…except humans. Their main hunting predators were Native American groups who used their teeth and claws and such for ceremonial dressing. After a failed attempt at getting my yard declared a national reservation to attract hunting parties and being told I was culturally insensitive I decided to go another route. It wasn’t a great plan anyway because any Native American group agreeing to live in my front yard to scare off bears would have to pack up and move over a few feet to guest parking every time we wanted to back out of the driveway since I live in a townhouse and technically have no front yard.
I thought about an alternative to this plan and learned bears’ other natural predators are other bears. Not having any real bears on hand, I took one of Sam’s Berenstain Bears books to Kinkos and had bear-sized cardboard cutouts made of the whole Berenstain family and set them up in my driveway.
I figured that in terms of dominance, a bear family already living there and civilized enough to be wearing clothes and accessories would certainly speak volumes to the other bears in the area. After all, bears in clothes who are standing in front of a home is an indicator of superiority...or at least that they have a larger line of credit at their disposal.
These bears obviously have a mortgage and probably a big fat 401k. The child bears obviously go to a private school…which ain’t cheap and clearly, they’ve won over the neighborhood. Yep, this should speak to the wild bears' feeling of inferiority and send them on their way…maybe down the street to Rita’s where they will drown their bear sorrows in frozen custard and wonder why everyone seems to have more money than they do.
Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work. All I can say is that if our home is attacked, I’d like to hear the HOA defend its stance on extravagant and gaudy yard decoration in court. That is all I’m, legally, allowed to say about that.
Oh and remember that every animal doesn’t get the same lawn display rights as flamingos, deer and bunnies. The fight will never be over until a person can display a fake bear in their yard without persecution (and strongly worded letters).
And since the HOA is against large cut-outs of wild animals, I’m guessing they would object to our having a pet Cougar even though I intend to keep it in our fenced-in patio and no one would be the wiser. Cougars are not predators of bears, but they are competitors. I think the layered strategy of a Cougar in the backyard and food upstairs in the master bath would be too much work for the bears and force him to move on to other townhomes in the area. Alas, I was forced to scrap the Cougar idea as well given the red tape involved with wild animal purchases.
In doing additional research I learned that bears are attracted to people who speak nicely to them and that people should only show aggression in order to dissolve tense bear situations. In real life, this does not work when dealing with human road rage, however apparently bears are very sensitive and their love language is words of affirmation.
Since I don’t intend to stand outside and engage any bears in conversation, I’ve decided to find a symbol that let’s the bears know that my household means business. Sam and I practice scowling from the window upstairs, and I have to say, that my little three year old is intimidating. We practice hours on end and even though Sam cries the whole time and begs to go watch Super Why, I know he will thank me one day for teaching him this important life skill.
I thought long and hard about what I could use to really communicate that our house is an aggressive one and not welcoming of bears and I think I came up with the greatest solution possible. I have had all the sod removed from my side yard and in its place an Ultimate Fighting Cage is being built. This way the bears will know that professional fighters live and train here and they will move on - not wanting to "go there". In my mind, there is nothing more intimidating than messing with an ultimate cage fighter…nothing, that is, except Vin Diesel.
This led me to get a cut-out of Vin Diesel. And who, other than bears, doesn’t love Vin Diesel?
Don’t worry, I am being smarter with this one. I’ve decorated the perimeter of Vin Diesel with red, white and blue streamers and fastened him to the side of the house outside of our master bedroom window. I did this so that the bears will think they just woke him up and he grabbed his gun and fourth of July streamers and is coming out the window to kick some bear butt.
I preempted the HOA’s sure-to-come strongly worded letter, by reminding them that holiday decorations are allowed and since its close to the 4th of July and Vin Diesel is a national symbol of action movies and he played a character who got killed in a movie about a war for our freedom that it would be UNAMERICAN (yes I all capp-sed that) to request me, a veteran (okay I lied about that) to take it down.
I made sure that I used the words “emotional distress” in my letter…a lot.
Luckily, the form of legal action that the HOA is choosing, will take a good portion of bear season to organize and round up witnesses and such so for now, Vin Diesel stays.
All in all, I'm pretty proud of my quickly gained expertise on the subject of bear-proofing. All it takes is a few extra steps and you too can have the peace of mind that I have in knowing my family will not fall victim to senseless and random bear violence.