Birdseed And Bears

by Doug Pifer

“Late that night . . . I heard a crash . . . a pair of eyes sent their reflection back to me.”

A fifty-pound bag of feed lay ripped open on the ground. Chicken feed was scattered alongside the lids of two 25-gallon galvanized cans where my wife has kept her poultry food supply for many years. An empty container lay on its side, bent as if a man had sat on it. And where was the newly opened bag of birdseed we used as special treats for our poultry?

Having camped and hiked in many wilderness areas, my wife and I know bear damage when we see it.

Later that morning we cleaned up the mess and took stock: not a feather of a chicken, guinea or turkey was harmed. I discovered a scat the size of a large pie pan on our side of the back fence. It consisted mostly of undigested field corn, plus a few light-purple hackberries. There was no doubt that our suspect was a good-sized black bear.

Late the following night, while working in the studio, I heard a crash coming from the direction of the garden. I grabbed a flashlight, sneaked out the back doorway, and turned on the beam. From fifteen feet away a pair of eyes sent their reflections back to me through the fence. As I moved slowly toward the garden for a better look, the bear calmly turned and walked away with great dignity, disappearing behind the biggest of our chain-link turkey runs. I heard a tree limb crack as he used it to scale the back fence into the cornfield.

Next day we went down to assess the damage. The bear had carried away the heavy canister my wife uses to feed her poultry, and had tried but couldn’t unscrew the lid. In the process, though, it had managed to sink its teeth all the way through the hard plastic.

We’ve never heard or seen any sign of it since then. My wife was disappointed to lose the heavy-duty clip attached to the bag of birdseed the bear had taken out of the metal container the night before. I figured the bear had destroyed it, but she contended that bears don’t care about plastic clips and that we should at least trail the bear to see where it went.

So, like Hansel and Gretel, we followed the still-fresh trail of spilled birdseed between the rows of standing corn. We poked among smashed down cornstalks where the big animal had evidently rested while eating the birdseed. There was the big blue clip, unharmed and still attached to the remaining scraps of the plastic birdseed bag.

Everybody who writes about bear depredation mentions that wild birdseed is like candy to bears, and they’ll carry off bird feeders and destroy your property to get some.

Our experience “bears” this out. Store your wild birdseed inside, locked up!