Friday, May 21, 2010

Calling All Bears...

When a pine needle falls in the forest,
the eagle sees it; the deer hears it,
and the bear smells it.
~Old First Nations Saying

To our four-legged, woolly bear friends,

We owe you an apology. Truly, we’re sorry. Please forgive us for forgetting that you will always do what is in your nature to do. In our negligence, we have endangered your very survival.

You see, in our effort to be organized and keep our space clean, sometimes we put our trash outside the night before a scheduled pick-up, rather than waiting until the morning of. And sometimes, in our laziness, we dump leftovers in the trash and leave our bags by the door with every good intention of taking it to the dump or putting it in a trash can the next time we go out to the garage. Then we forget.

But in forgetting, we have forgotten you . . . we have forgotten that you are waking from your winter slumber, hungry, in search of food. And we have forgotten that you, like us, often take the path of least resistance—why forage for berries, fruit and nuts when a fabulous dining extravaganza is laid before you in a Hefty cinch-sack?

And in our love of nature—in our desire to attract and visit with our winged friends—we put out our bird feeders, hanging low from trees, filled to the brim with delicious seeds and sugary-sweet nectar, without considering what a challenge it is for you to turn away from that which you most desire. Willpower is not your strong suit.

Yet we unknowingly reward you for fearlessly exploring human places, turning our bird feeders into bear feeders and giving you a false sense of security around humans; a deadly lesson for you indeed, leaving you vulnerable and exposed to human conflict; at worst—euthanasia.

As with many life lessons hindsight is our great teacher. Now we know that if we change certain aspects of our behavior, with you, our bear friends, in mind, we will help reduce human-to-bear conflict and possibly save your lives.

So from now on, we promise you this:

Never again will we forget how very smart, curious, and resourceful you are, the way you follow your sensitive noses—smelling food five miles away—returning again and again to lucrative food sources.

From mid-March through early November, we will commune with our winged friends in less intrusive ways. We know that it’s best not to feed the birds when you’re out and about but, if we do, we promise to bring in our feeders at night—before sundown—or hang them at least ten feet out of your reach. And we promise to be vigilant in our clean-up efforts, keeping the area beneath our feeders clear of debris.

We promise always—ALWAYS—to remember these four rules of trash storage:  (1) Store trash in air-tight containers; (2) Set out trash on the morning of pick-up only; (3) Wash all disposable food containers with soap and water; and (4) Periodically wash-out our air-tight trash cans with a solution of bleach or ammonia and water.

We know you’re tempted by smells—that’s why it’s better that we freeze our smelly food trash and put it in the garbage on the morning of pick-up—but, hey, we’re human and sometimes we get busy or forget. We acknowledge that any action to protect you—even if not perfect—is better than no action at all. So at a minimum we pledge to set out our trash on the morning of pick-up only, having washed our disposable food containers and stored trash in air-tight, bear-proof cans.

And we promise not to tempt you with anything that has an odor (food, beverages, scented candles, air fresheners and toiletries)—keeping our bear-accessible doors and windows in our homes and vehicles closed—even when we’re hanging out at home.

The mountains have always been here
and in them the bears.
~Rick Baas, from The Lost Grizzlies

It’s a challenge to stay one step ahead of you, but we know it’s our responsibility. You are our mountain neighbors, and you were here first—long before the first pioneers arrived. And our human behavior determines your fate. As they say up here on the mountain, “A fed bear is a dead bear.”

We know that if you exhibit aggressive bear behavior because you’re a bit too comfortable in human places—breaking into our homes, attacking people or lingering in our school yards—you will be considered a threat and you will be killed.  And we’ll have your blood on our hands.

So please take your cue:  If we should encounter you face-to-face in all your bear glory, hanging round our homes or campsites, we promise to scare you away—clapping our hands, blowing a whistle, yelling, or banging on pots and pans—not because we don’t like you, but to preserve your people-wary nature and save your life.  Please don't be offended ... just run along and get back to your hunting and foraging ways.  And we’ll do our part to keep you safe.

This is our promise to you.

With much love,
Your Two-Legged Friends

To take the “Keep Bears Wild Pledge,” or to speak to a Bear Aware Volunteer, contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Denver office, at (303) 297-1192. Learn how to bear-proof your home by visiting or Or look for similar programs in your state. Educate yourself.  Protect our wildlife.

All photos and content © 2008-2010 by Melissa Johnson. For e-mail subscribers, if you’re having problems viewing this article and photos, click here HEART LAW to link to the blog home page. Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Such a difference you make when your loving thoughts circle out from around you. You are a great teacher!

Melissa Johnson said...

Hello Pam at Thank you so much for reading and leaving your kind words. Thanks for connecting here! I look forward to checking out your blog. Cheers~ Melissa