Here's the Scoop: August 1, 2012

Another day in the country
I’m not sure if “epidemic” is the right word, but the number of bear sightings in the Catskills has reached some lofty heights.

A day “barely” goes by when another remarkable bruin-related tale is exposed. Bears on the lawn? Ha, they’re as common as robins in the spring. Bears casually strolling up on porches like cookout guests? Yawn.

Being somewhat of a skeptic, I used to hear about these kinds of bear sighting stories, shake my head and dismiss them as “bull.” Not anymore.

One of the “benefits” (there are few, in my mind) of Facebook is that folks can spread bear news pretty rapidly. Usually with photos as proof. Pictures can certainly be manipulated, but I get the feeling that most of the bear photos my friends post are legitimate.

I’ve got to admit it, after a lifetime in the Catskills, I still enjoy seeing deer — as long as they’re not wrapped around my bumper. So, when it comes to bear encounters, such occasions are not ho-hum events. It took me a long time before I spotted one and I have seen many since, but I always like such sightings. Usually.

A rural experience
Whenever someone from an urban area visits us, I always hope they will get to see a bear roaming on our lawn or somewhere nearby. During my sister-in-law’s recent visit, after a few hours of settling in, we decided to take her on a bike ride around the reservoir. My wife was slightly ahead of us and suddenly got off her bike. She motioned for us to stop and pointed into the woods. It was dark in the thick undergrowth, but the bear that had been standing next to the guardrails moments earlier was quite visible wandering around about 50 yards away.

My sister-in-law saw the bear, but didn’t have much of a reaction. At first, I thought that maybe she was nervous that we didn’t have a Department of Environmental Protection permit for bear watching and was worried about ending up the The Big House. I later assumed that the “sighting” wasn’t that memorable because the bear was a bit obscured by the forest.

The next evening, as we sat on the front porch, I spotted our “pet” bear patrolling the road in front our house like a crossing guard.
“Look at the bear!” I whispered excitedly.

This is exciting
My wife and I got the usual bear-sighting goose bumps. My sister-in-law nodded and went back to her book. The bear continued its casual stroll, showing off like a runway model — minus the heels. He was moving so slowly, I briefly considered racing into the kitchen to whip up a batch of popcorn to top off the entertainment.

My sister-in-law didn’t even change expression. I thought if the bear looked over, it would think it was having a two-person sighting and also getting a glimpse of some unusual person-shaped porch ornament.

After a long while, the bear eventually ambled back into the woods, probably ready to post its adventures on Critterbook.

A few moments later, I cleared my throat and calmly asked my sister-in-law, “So, do you see a lot of bears at home in Baltimore?”

Without missing a beat, she replied, “Nope. I’ve never seen one before.” Back to reading.
Even though I never made the popcorn, I had grabbed the camera and shot some bear footage. I then proceeded to take a few photos of my sister-in-law, reading and relaxing.

“You may want to post these on Facebook,” I told her.
She shrugged and flipped a page.

“When you’re done with that chapter, I think it will be time for dinner,” I told her. “You’ll love it, we’re having porridge tonight.”

“I hope mine is just right,” she responded with a sly smile.
— Brian Sweeney

Wild animals