A Black Bear Comes For Brunch

21 Oct 2011 Wildlife Stories

Black Bear at the Cottage

The best part of working from the cottage is the opportunity I have to see all the wonders of nature on a daily basis.

Most of the time, the visitors are the usual suspects – birds, deer, foxes, and squirrels.

On one fine day last August, I had a very special guest.

I awoke quite motivated and worked on my latest story straight through the morning without eating any breakfast. A drenching rain the night before had refreshed the forest, and the morning sun arrived with a soft breeze, so I had all the cabin windows pushed wide open.

At about 11am my stomach signalled it was time to take a break and I decided to treat myself to a couple of eggs with cheese on English muffins. Yes, this is a fancy brunch for yours truly when he is stranded alone at the cabin.

After my meal, I had just settled in front of the computer to do a bit of editing when a black bear came strolling out of the woods on the east side of the property. The smell of fried eggs wafting through the woods had obviously landed across the end of its nose.

Still upset with myself for botching the photo of a timber wolf earlier in the summer, I boldly grabbed the camera and headed out the front door to get a few pictures of the bear before it disappeared.

The young bruin had wandered to the edge of the property and I managed to get a few distant shots as it sniffed around an ant hill and some dead logs before heading back into the bush.

Suspecting the photos I had taken were not very good, I had to quickly decide on my next move.

A brief battle ensued in my head between the little voice of common sense which told me to go back to work, and the more convincing voice of a greedy photographer, which urged me on to get a better photo.

I decided to cautiously approach the area where my visitor had entered the forest. When I reached the spot, I could no longer see the animal and presumed the bear had continued on its way.

Cursing myself for another missed opportunity, I slowly shuffled back towards the cabin, trying to shade the camera screen with my left hand as I scrolled through the blurry images.

Suddenly, the crack of snapping twigs just off to my right suggested my assumption about the bear’s location had been wrong.

I stopped dead in my tracks, lifted my head and watched the beast as it strolled straight out of the woods right in front of me, essentially cutting off my path back to the cabin.

Black Bear Sees Me

The bear was so close that I had to retract the zoom lens on the camera to get a picture. For the first five or six seconds the animal didn’t see me.
Finally, it either picked up my scent or heard the pounding of my heart and stopped to investigate.

For a brief moment we stood silently gazing into each other’s eyes.

Black Bear Beside Outhouse

The bear flinched first.

Deciding that our encounter was too close for comfort, it fortunately lumbered back towards the outhouse and into the forest at a casual pace, not even bothering to look back and say good-bye.

Too excited to fully grasp how foolish I had just been, I scampered into the cabin to change my underwear and loaded the photos onto the computer.

About an hour later, as I was working on the rough draft of this story, my new friend re-emerged from the woods and this time headed straight for the shoreline near the dock.

Black Bear Beside Canoe

I snapped a couple of pictures through the cabin window and then eased out onto the deck as the bear worked its way towards the canoe, where it calmly paused and longingly glanced up in my direction as if it were waiting for me to come down and take it out for a ride.

Black Bear On The Shoreline

After conveniently posing for another photo, the animal concluded there would be no canoe ride that day and continued its hike along the shoreline. It stopped for a quick drink and then slowly worked its way back into the bush. This time, I stayed on the deck.

Stupidity often overrides common sense and this event was a perfect example. Although the bear was quite young, and black bear attacks are rare, the animal could have caused me a lot of grief had it felt threatened. At one point, I had absolutely nowhere to hide.

The extremely dry weather this summer has resulted in a poor crop of berries and cottagers are likely to see more bears than usual as the animals search out alternative sources of food to get them through the coming winter. Please keep this in mind through the fall months while spending time at the lake.

Written and photographed by: Andrew Walker

Check out our Bear Tips page to get all the information you need on how to avoid bears and what to do if you encounter one.

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