Not five minutes after BigDaddyFish and my wonderful neighbor finished carrying our old stove out to the curb so that the county recycling folks can pick it up, BDF stood on our deck frantically tapping on a window to get our attention. The baby started screaming for Daddy, but nobody went out to see what he wanted, so after about a full minute I finally strolled out.
"SHHHHH! Look over there," BDF whisper-shouted. "Get them to be quiet!"
"What's going on?" I whisper-shouted back. He answered with a point to the edge of the woods.
And indeed it was. A medium-sized, probably adolescent black bear was wandering nonchalantly behind the row of townhouses next door to ours. I summoned Trout and Little Man, and we stood at the rail of our deck, fascinated. I ran for the camera, but in the 15 seconds or so that I was gone the bear...
disapparated transfigured disappeared completely.
"Give me that - I'll get the picture," said BDF as he took the camera from me and dashed down our steps and a couple of steps back into the woods. He stopped, crouched down, looked around. He took a few steps left, and kept looking.
After about three minutes of watching my husband skulk through the woods and fielding my children's queries of "Is Daddy going to die?" "What if the bear eats him?" "What if the bear crashes through the windows?" (my kids watch entirely too much tv, obviously), I got sick of waiting for him and went in the house. The kids gave up about 30 seconds later.
"What'sa matter, didn't want to see me die?" asked my husband as he came in the house about five minutes later. My husband clearly watches too much tv, too.
"No, I could just tell that you weren't having any luck and got bored." We marvelled for a while at the fact that the bear just disappeared. He moved amazingly fast and quietly for a bear.
"If I only had about three other people I could bag it," said BDF.
"What?!? I don't want the bear to get killed," I said.
"No, I mean get its picture." Okay, I apparently watch too much tv, too.
So there's a bear in the neighborhood. I had heard my neighbors talk about it, but this is the first time we've actually seen it. It's such a surprising thing, because this is a townhouse neighborhood. For all that I live in the woods on the edge of a park, this is still the DC metro area. It is incredibly populated. If the part of the county where I live ever decided to incorporate, we'd become the second largest city in Maryland after Baltimore. We had an estimated 85,000 people in 2005. Our townhouse development has more than 150 houses, and although we have the woods and lake out back, we are smack in the middle of surburbia. There are major roads and buildings and schools and stuff within spitting distance. Even the lake and the park get a huge amount of human traffic every single day.
I feel bad for this bear - he clearly is eating enough (in fact, BDF thinks he came near the houses because he smelled our trash cans - more about that in a bit), but I don't think he's going to have much success mating here in the neighborhood. He shows the right amount of fear of humans, and I don't worry much about any of us people having a run in with him. We residents have known about him for a while now, and none of us let our kids out without an adult being nearby (well, except me - but then again I actively encourage my kids to play in traffic), so I don't think him being around is a safety issue. Animal control has been called before and they could never find him (I tell you, he transfigures), so I'm unsure how to go about getting him relocated someplace more ... beary. That's a task for tomorrow.
Being on the edge of the woods and the lake, we see our fare share of wildlife: Squirrels, chipmunks, snakes, birds (including bald eagles), large numbers of deer (because they don't allow hunting here, our herds are HUGE), foxes, and racoons. Ah, the racoons. There isn't a single resident here that hasn't had their trash cans raided by the racoons on a fairly regular basis. We've tried all the tricks, but the only way to keep them out is to lock up the trash cans inside some sort of structure, which makes taking the trash out a bit more of an adventure than one might think.
Some of the racoons are more timid than others, and some are more easily scared off than others. Periodically over the nine years we've lived here a racoon will show up for a while, eventually we'll catch them in the act of scavenging through our trash and chase them off with a broom, and they go away. Then a few months will go by and the next crew will move in (or the old crew gets ballsy and tries to come back - how long is the life span of a racoon, anyway?).
For the past week or so we've had a racoon getting in our trash, but it hasn't made a big mess, not even knocking the can over but just ripping the lid off and dining in the can. Early Saturday morning I was reading in my bedroom when I heard what sounded like a combination growl/scream, and heard the telltale knocking around the racoons do when they get into the trash. The growl/scream was weird enough that BDF came running down from our loft as I jumped up to kill the lights and try to see what was going on outside. I stayed in the bedroom and BDF ran down to the kitchen. He hit the lightswitch outside, and we discovered not one, but two adolescent racoons raiding our trash. One was rather daintily standing on the deck next to the can, and the other was perched atop the old oven that BDF and I had dragged out there because I didn't want two ovens in my kitchen for a week. At first I thought they were fighting over the trash can, but as I watched it looked to me like they were in cahoots. I opened the window and said "Go away!" out the window as loud as I dared at 1 am, and the dainty one skedaddled over the rail to my neighbor's deck. The one on top of the oven simply looked at me and climbed into the trash can to eat his fill. As he started to dine I hissed at him, like a cat, and he stopped and stared up at me. I didn't blink. He started to eat and I hissed again. Three times he started to eat, I hissed, he stopped and stared at me, but he didn't move. After the third time BDF burst out the door armed with the broom, and would you know that ballsy racoon didn't even flinch? So BDF bopped it on the back with the broom, at which time it decided it was time to go and ran off into the woods.
Last night they got their revenge by actually knocking the can over and making a bigger mess. So we're back to locking up the cans again. And before you start telling us all the racoon deterrent tricks you know, we've tried bricks on the can lids, bungy cords on the can lids, and a whole host of other things to keep them out - nothing works short of locking the things away. These are wiley little buggers.
But thanks to the particularly stinky trash due to it being torn open, eaten a bit, and repackaged a couple of times, BDF thinks the bear was attracted to our trash and was coming to eat it. He said the bear was right in the middle of the green space between our townhouse and our neighbor's (we have end units) and was startled by BDF. At 5:30 pm on a summer evening. BDF also told me that the top hinge on our gate at the top of our stairs has been broken off, and we suspect the bear had come up here before and its weight broke the hinge. We kinda like having a bear out back, but on our deck is a little too close for comfort.