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Homestead Update - Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

When you live in the mountains, wildlife is a natural part of every day. We’ve seen foxes run across the driveway. Hear coyotes how in the night. Found mountain lion prints in the snow on the deck. See turkeys and dear in the front yard. And even get into fights with squirrels. So we knew it was only a matter of time before we encountered bears.

First Sighting

The first bear encounter I had was a few weeks ago. I went to take Tyson (our boxer dog) out for his evening bathroom break and I could see that he was agitated. He kept running back and forth in front of the house. Then he shot off and ran around the side yard. I followed after assuming we were hunting squirrel.

Well, I’ve never been more grateful in all my life that my beautiful boy is a terrible hunter. He ran to the right. I looked to the left and 15 feet from me was the biggest bear I’ve ever seen! My blood ran ice cold in that moment and I started screaming Tyson’s name. He came bounding back to me still none the wiser and I grabbed his collar and booked it back into the house. And that was it. From that point on, the dogs were no longer allowed off-leash and I always check the ravine before I do anything outside.

Second Encounter

Two weeks ago we were again out with the dogs. This time for their bedtime bathroom break and Brixie (our pitbull) started barking and snarling in the direction of the garden. We panned around with our spotlight and low to the ground just to the right of the chicken coop we saw eyes glowing in the light. Again, they were close to the ground so we assumed were looking at a fox and headed directly towards them with two snarling dogs staining their leashes in the lead. Of course when we got to the back of the garden our visitor had left. So we finished up with the dogs and set to wiring up the chicken coop with a baby monitor.

Thirty minutes later I went out on the back deck because the motion lights on the back of the coop had been triggered. Then I saw movement at the back fence again. I yelled for Daniel and that’s when I identified our visitor. He moved slowly down the fenceline and triggered the second set of motion lights. There silhouetted in the dark was the hulking body of a bear.

We now knew we had a long night ahead of us. Before we even made it to bed we heard a noise on the baby monitor and my husband went to check the back window. There he was. Bold as brass sitting on the deck 3 feet from us.

The Attractant

It turns out, I had left a bag of used chicken bedding on the deck. We are always very careful about leaving out food or trash or any item that might attract animals, but honestly chicken poop? It never ever occurred to me that a bear would come after that. But he did, again and again, and again. Every thirty minutes for the rest of the night. In between visits, I cleaned up as much of the mess as I could, but there is a 3” gap between the house and the step and it was full up with chicken poop.

Repeat Offender

We had no doubt he would be back a second night, and we were not disappointed. Right after 5 o’clock, he returned to sit on the porch and scoop chicken sh*t out of the gap like it was honey. So we ran him off again and cleared the gap out as best we could hit it with a hose and then poured an entire bottle of Pine-Sol on it. That was the end of him coming up on the porch, but he was still hanging around.

The Bear Proof Fence

When we first spotted the bear up on the porch we made a call to the Department of Wildlife (DOW) to let them know there was a bear being a little too friendly. Their sage advice was to “hit it with a broom!” Um, no. As cute and cuddly as this guy looks, I think I’ll pass on getting that close. Our second call was to Bear Smart Durango, and they were much more helpful! They came out the next day and did a site assessment. Followed by very promptly providing us with an electric fence. I honestly can’t say enough good things about this organization. If you are in the La Plata County area and you ever have a bear problem, I encourage you to make Bear Smart Durango your first call.

Will the Saga Continue?

We know for certain that our bear hasn’t left the area. Last night he managed to climb into our closest neighbor's mud room so he’s still close by making messes. As for us, we haven’t seen him up close and personal again. But with the garden growing and fresh food starting to ripen, my guess is that he’ll be back sooner or later. But, the good news is that he’s not likely to get our chickens!

What’s life like on your homestead? Have you had any lions or tigers or bears? Or maybe just some menacing squirrels? Tell us all about your furry friends and foes in the comments below and as always,

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