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It’s a Zoo Out Here

Yesterday afternoon I walked down to the mailbox to see if the held mail notice was still in it. Just as I slammed the mailbox door, an adult black bear rounded the corner of Stanwell and Langdale, and ambled down the middle of the sidewalk, straight at me. It was fat as bears go, granted that this is the time of year for bears to be fat. Fat or not, what impressed me was that it saw me and didn’t stop ambling. On it came. Forty feet. Thirty feet. Twenty-five feet. There the bear paused, still in the middle of the sidewalk. This was closer than I’d ever been to a black bear without lots of iron between us, and way closer than I’d prefer to be. My first thought was to look for cubs. Not the time of year for that, and nothing in view. My second thought proceeded from my training as a fiction writer: What does this character want? No clue. My third thought was to start backing up, slowly. I’m thin. The bear was fat. It was about 100 feet to my front door. I started doing the math.

After I backed up ten or fifteen feet, the bear ambled across our neighbors’ gravel landscaping and galomphed down into the gully between our houses, where there is a galvanized iron pipe under Stanwell carrying runoff from farther up the mountain. It’s gotten a lot of use this (wet) summer, and was still trickling a little. The bear hunkered down and started lapping water from the open end of the pipe.

I had gotten between a bear and what it wanted, which probably isn’t a good idea. At least the bear was courteous enough to wait for me to figure that out.

Today’s animal stories don’t end there, Uncle Lar. No indeedy. On Tuesday, a skunk got into Jimi Henton’s back yard. Jimi boards the Pack when we travel (we bought three of them from her, in fact, so they’re basically family) and the four of them much enjoy the luxury of having a back yard where they can run around in circles. Aero likes to bark at animals that he sees, generally out the kitchen nook window. Here was one of a sort he doesn’t see often, and he headed off at a gallop to protect his breeder and his pack from the interloper. Shortly afterward, Jimi smelled skunk in the house. She has a doggie door into the back yard and assumed the worst. But no, it was skunk by proxy. By the time she cornered Aero in her living room the whole house reeked.

Four baths and all sorts of exotic remedies later, he still smells a little. But here’s a tip for the skunklorn: Take off the dog’s collar. Much of the smell that remained was in the leather, which is now double-bagged in the big garage trash can.

Oh, and earlier today I saw nine deer right across the street, eating the grass. This is one reason we didn’t plant grass.

Tonight I will grill a good steak in honor of the animal kingdom. I will grill it from my main deck, which lacks stairs and is 23 feet above the ground. If I see any of my animal friends down in the gully, I will wave, hold up the steak, and say, Don’t push your luck.


  1. Tony says:

    Saw one of these in our neighborhood driving to work this morning. He looked at me. I slowed down and waited for him to move off. Glad the Prius was quiet.

  2. Stickmaker says:

    No bears around here, but we do have lots of deer, raccoons, possums, the occasional skunk and – lately – coyotes.

    I have a photo of a small deer standing in the far part of my back yard, staring at me as I took the picture, an apple from one of my trees in its mouth.

    Late on warm nights you can hear the bats overhead, clicking as they hunt flying insects.

    I’m inside the city limits, but just one street away from a heavily wooded hillside.

  3. Rich Rostrom says:

    No bears here either, on the Evanston-Chicago border. But lots of rabbits, and I’ve seen a few skunks. I saw a coyote in Evanston once, and there are lots of coons living in the cemeteries down Western Avenue.

  4. Jeff,

    There is a product called “SkunkOff”, which is an enzyme that attacks the main offending chemical in skunk stench. It was developed by a man in Lima, NY. It only takes one(1) drop to do the job.

    1. Well, Aero is now upstairs getting Bath #5 even as I type. I’ll go looking for Skunk-Off, as Carol says she can still smell it on him, even after some topical work with several concoctions from Petco. This is a first for us. We hope it’s the last.

  5. Jim Mischel says:

    Seems like the deer around here eat everything but the grass. I still have to mow that.

  6. Gary Mugford says:

    A couple of years back, a raccoon family took up resident in the shack we unlovingly call the garage. It’s main duty is to store one of my brothers’ boats during the winter. And since I don’t visit the garage save for once or twice a year, the raccoon was able to set up shop (and latrine) for her and her four kits. All of this was discovered come spring when my brother came to collect his boat.

    The boat was in … let’s call it undersirable shape. $700 of cleaning later shape. Items were destroyed or had to be destroyed due to dung reasons. All quite messy. And I had to constantly remind my brother I had been offering him FREE storage for years. And I promised in the future to lay down a supply of Predator Pee (the coyote kind). AND I had to have the city move the raccoons. Which they did.

    A total of SIX INCHES. That’s right, SIX inches. From inside the garage to the stone walkway running along outside of it. For only $420.

    Seems the city got nailed for dumping rabid raccoons back into the hinterlands years ago and had to agree not to move raccoons away, past city limits. So, they started a campaign to simply box the kits, causing the raccoon mom a fright and let nature take its course. A day later, the mother raccoon and her three kits were nowhere to be found. And whether the scare or the odious concoction from Predator Pee is the reason, the critter family hasn’t been back.

    My brother has since bought a fixer upper house further up the lake and now winters his boats there. And we’ve emptied the garage so that nothing in there even remotely looks like a hiding cubby-hole for a mom-to-be varmint.

  7. Andy Lester says:

    Skunk gonna be OK, Uncle Lar?

    1. No, Lil’ Tommy. Aero rattled that ol’ Skunk so much he dove under the fence, ran past the laundromat on Uintah, and got hit by a runaway garbage truck. Took six different detergents to get the stink out. Good thing it happened right in front of that laundromat!

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