Usually it cools off considerably by the time the sun sets at the cabin, but last week it was so hot, even at 8500 feet, I had both doors and a window open at 9 one night. That’s the only reason I could hear animals scrabbling up the two pine trees, one on either side of the cabin. When I looked out, I saw a body maybe the size of a raccoon going up one ponderosa, but I’ve never seen raccoons here, and I wondered if they could be bear cubs.
Shortly after that thought, I heard a loud snorting at the edge of the yard and before I knew it, I could see Mama Bear, yellow eyes glinting, heading directly toward the trees—and where I stood at the front door. There’s nothing quite like a massive bear coming swiftly toward you to get your adrenaline going. As fast as I could, I closed the front door, then the back door and then the side window.
I turned on the front porch light to better see what I hoped was a rare wildlife show: Mama Bear and her cubs in my front yard. But Mom stayed at the edge of the darkness. Although the sun had long set, there was still enough light for me to make out a massive shape, darker than the air around it, pacing back and forth. I finally realized that the porch light was keeping her from her cubs, and I could hear whimpering coming from the trees. I would have to sacrifice a wilderness show for letting nature be—and removing my human presence as much as I could.
I wrote that the bears were in “my yard,” but when I moved into this cabin, I entered their territory. Those of us who live in Meeker Park had taken over land that had been inhabited by others: bears, mountain lions, deer, elk, chipmunks, ground squirrels, ermine and minks. We built houses where they had grazed, chased prey, drank from the streams and found shelter. We put up fences that prevented them from moving easily across the land; our cars killed them. Human-caused climate change had altered their food patterns.
Reluctantly, I turned off the outside lights and then all the inside lights, and peeked out the window, trying to see as much as I could in the ensuing darkness. At first nothing, but then the huge dark presence approached the trees and came up on the front porch; only a window away from me. You don’t realize how big a bear is until it’s inches from you.
For a few minutes I lost sight of the bear, but when I went to my side window I could see it walking away into the darkness. Then I saw one cub running after it, then another. Amazingly, a third cub scooted down the tree trunk and came bounding over to the group. Stay safe, I thought, as safe as you can in this harsh world.
Photos from internet stock images.