Magstadt: When A Bear Bugs You …Keep the “Bug” Spray Handy

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Rocky and I had a close encounter with a black bear at the cabin this morning. An hour or so before sunrise, Rocky growled in that low rumble the way he does when something is wrong but he's not sure what. Call it his pre-bark mode.

I thought it was just the humidifier gurgling, but a little voice in my foggy head told me to get up and investigate. I opened the blinds and saw the furred arch of a large back.

Cinnamon fur!  Wrapped around a bear.  It was probably the same bear that visited the premises a week ago, wasn’t afraid of gun shots or banging pots, and was only persuaded to leave when some big rocks hurled in earnest nearly bounced off his fat head.

So it's 6:00 AM on Sunday, Memorial Day weekend, there's not a soul within miles of here, and there’s a bear under my bedroom window. Interesting.

I was mesmerized, less than comfortable with the situation, but I couldn't take my eyes off the incredible hulk lounging on my porch. I watched him or her for a minute or two and then, snapping out of my trance, went for the bear spray.

Fortunately, I didn’t have far to go. Believe it or not, I keep a can of it beside the bed. Silly, right?  Why would anyone have bear spray in a bedroom? (Don't answer that...)

So I'm armed, the bear is on my porch, but there's a window between us. (Note: I’m no average dummy; I know you can't spray though a closed window.) Now Big Bad Bear realizes he's being watched. He gets his bear face right in the window and then ever so gently raises one paw the size of a dishpan and rakes it across the screen!

Okay, buddy, no more Mr. Nice Guy!!!  I open the window and I'm literally face-to-face with a bear – that is to say, our faces are three feet apart.

I’m please to report that bear spray works. I could be the guy who does the commercial for the stuff on the Discovery Channel. I gave the bear one quick blast in the face and he veritably flew off the porch, making a loud pathetic "huff" as he left (the spray stings eyes and nasal membranes, bears having uncommonly sensitive and efficient noses).

The last thing I saw was the backside of a crybaby bear slinking into the woods north of the cabin.

Well, not quite the last thing – not 15 minutes later I looked out the window on the same side of the cabin and he/she was back – except this time with a different fur coat. “Cinnamon” apparently has a fine wardrobe. This bear was sporting a chic black fur coat.

Okay, it was a different bear – smaller but big enough to get our attention – Rocky's and mine. Brave Rocky, all 35 lbs. of him, was in high dudgeon – he really wanted to go out there and tangle with Black Pete (Petra?)

I flipped the latch on the window next to the fireplace and opened it. (Unlike Cinnamon, this bear was not on the porch, but about 10 yards from the cabin.) Upon hearing the “click”, Black Pete made a beeline for the trees. I watched and the bear lingered on the perimeter between cabin and trees for a bit before disappearing.  Happily, this one did not been back.

The behavior of these two bears was different. The first one, bigger and cinnamon-colored, is not afraid of humans, but does not appear to be aggressive. This powerful animal with claws the length of a man's fingers pawed the screen on the bedroom window so gently that it left no forensic evidence. The same bear, it turns out, dismantled a cabinet on the porch, no problem.

I worry about Cinnamon mainly because he is so, well, dumb about humans. If he persists, somebody eventually will kill him. The other bear is wary of humans; just the metallic click of the window latch was enough to spook her.

In case you’re wondering, no – my cabin is not a bear magnet.  We keep windows at ground level closed at night, take birdfeeders down, trashcans are in a shed, et cetera.

As much as I love seeing these animals in the wild (for me, it’s like seeing the world through the eyes of a five-year-old again) I'm hoping the bear spray in the face will dissuade Cinnamon from coming around again and, more importantly, teach him a lesson he won't soon forget.

I want him to live.  These mountains are his home.  He belongs here.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it...

Tom Magstadt writes and cooks in the log cabin of his dreams. He lives on a mountain in Ouray County and frequents Colorado Boy almost enough to qualify as a regular Visit Tom’s blog at http://open.salon.com/blog/dakotaki.