We’ve got new neighbours. They’re big, black, hairy and often scary. Ursus Americanus (Black Bears) are lurking in our woods.
Bears used to hang around here but were hit hard by the recession. What with recycling and composting it’s slim pickings at Camp for food scraps these days. Word in the woods is that they went to North Spur, two miles up the track, where the Skunk Train stops for a BBQ lunch.
Now it’s apple season, they’re returning. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Behind the Other Camp Family’s house, there’s a small orchard dripping with tart red apples; irresistible for bears needing to lard up before winter. There are half munched apples strewn around the ground but the real proof is the colossal poop – oh yes, this poo needs a p on the end – that looks like the inside of an apple turnover.
We had one skulking around our house. The Dimple, who’s a lighter sleeper than me, described the noise as “like a drunk man crashing through the trees”. A friend was cycling past our house one night and heard said drunk man, stumbling from trunk to trunk, spurring on some ridiculously fast cycling.
I was excited and we discussed it at length. Bob and the ‘Dactyl would offer the bear a cup of tea once spotted. Or porridge.
The Other Camp Dad heard me chatting about ‘Our Bear’ to my brother and sister-in-law when they were visiting recently. It’s possible I was showing off.
“Turkeys!” he roared with laughter. “They’re so noisy they sound like a bar full of pissed guys at night. You wouldn’t hear a bear.”
Gawd, I felt like the turkey who’s spent most of her life in a city.
There was only thing to do: go bear hunting in the apple orchard. We piled into the car like teenagers and peeled out of the driveway, the law sis and I precariously perched in Bob and the ‘Dactyl’s car seats.
For a gripping moment we thought we saw an eye in the dark, and then realized it was my headlamp reflected in the window. Full of stealth, we were. We hunted everywhere, hoping to startle a well-satiated bear. We even got out of the car and sniffed about, no doubt sounding like a bar full of pissed guys ourselves.
The Other Camp Dad spooked us with roars, but alas, he was the only creature that made us jump that night.
I’m miffed. Everyone else has seen one: the Dimple, the Other Camp Dad, the Other Camp Mum, the unborn child in the Other Camp Mum’s tum. Last weekend, a young guy missed the train back from North Spur and got lost in the woods. He was on LSD, dressed in a toga and even he saw a bear! He also slept in a tree.
I love how unhelpful the advice is if you see one: climb a tree (Black Bears are very good tree climbers), run (they could out run humans with a sprained paw), get into the foetal position (giving up, surely), make yourself really big (quite tricky if you’re two or four), don’t move (even more tricky if you’re two or four).
Strangely, curiosity outweighs my fear. Bears are pescetarian; they’re more interested in the shrubbery than coffee-tasting humans. Apparently.
“It’s possible you’re suffering from PMS,” said the Dimple (Post Murder Syndrome). He thinks I’m thrill seeking. I suspect I’m obsessed because I come from a country where there are no bears; the scariest animal is a pit-bull without a leash.
I want to see Ursus Americanus and live to tell the tale.
The Dimple predicts if I actually see one, both of us will be so frightened we’ll lumber off at a cracking pace in opposite directions. I hope to prove him right.