a bear climbs many trees
Monday, August 5 2013
This evening our friends Susan the artist and David the illustrator came over for dinner, bringing Susan's brother Michæl (whom I had never met before) and dog Olive (a white-and-brown Pit Bull with large nipples). Gretchen usually does all the food preparation for such things all on her own, but today I'd helped out by picking basil (which we hadn't given to our weekend houseguests despite a request), chopping vegetables, and cleaning dishes the moment they went into the sink.
Not only did our guests bring over wine and a watermelon "salad," they also brought over a sixpack of beer. (Saranac Lake Red IPA; it's not very good.) It turn out Michæl is a business development type guy and he gave me some good ideas for getting freelance work. He's also completely bald, which seemed to make him more of a magnet for mosquitoes.
After a round of drinks and snacks out on the east deck, we all went for a walk down the "Gullies Trail" (the lowest of the trails we normally take). Susan is a bit of a helicopter mom with the dog Olive, worried that she would disappear into the woods (clearly something she had no inclination to do). I forget sometimes how mysterious and potentially frightening the forest can be for someone from the city, and so I shouldn't have been surprised by how often Susan mentioned the fact that I was walking barefoot in the forest.
As we approached the beginning of the "Mountain Goat" part of the path, we heard the dogs barking enthusiastically, and so I ran ahead to see what sort of animal they were harassing. I saw Ramona not far ahead (41.925781N, 74.102654W), looking up into a tree, and so I followed her gaze to a fairly large Black Bear. David was the only one with a cellphone and I hoped he'd take a picture, but I think he was overwhelmed by the situation and also fear that Olive (who had joined the dogs at the base of the tree) would be attacked. Michæl, meanwhile, had picked up a rock in case he needed to defend himself. Neither Gretchen nor I was that concerned. We'd seen this scenario play out many times and nothing bad ever happened. But then the bear decided to come down the tree.
How could something so big move so fast? The bear came down out of that tree (some sort of oak), somehow forming a dog-free bubble around himself, and then immediately climbed another tree (a White Pine). Oh, I thought, he just wasn't comfortable in that first tree. But then he decided to climb down the second tree and go to a third. Every time he did so, I half-expected one of the dogs to get too close and be sent hurling down the escarpment. Evidently, though, the dogs were smart enough to maintain a safe distance. Still, given the athleticism on display, had the bear wanted to, he could have preternaturally floated over to any one of those dogs and rubbed her out in an instant. But no, all he wanted to do was try out different trees. You would think he would have quickly exhausted himself hauling his hundreds of pounds of bulk thirty feet into three different trees, but he just kept doing it. Meanwhile we hollered for our dogs to come but there was no way they were going to listen to us when there was excitement like this to partake of.
David and Susan aren't as casual and freerange with Olive as we are with our dogs, so they eventually grabbed her and literally carried her from place where all this craziness was going on. Gretchen and I gave up on our dogs and thought it best to just turn around and start walking home. Perhaps the bear was changing up his trees so much in response to our presence. Who knew? But eventually a scenario would unfold wherein the bear had disappeared or become boring and the dogs would give up and head home. It's happened many times before, probably mostly without us humans ever being aware.
And sure enough, before we'd even returned as far as the Chamomile, both dogs had caught up with us. They were both exhausted but neither had any injuries. It had been a big exciting day for them, but it hadn't been unprecedented. For Olive, on the other hand, it might have been the most exciting day of her life.
Back at the house, out on the east deck, Gretchen was preparing to bring out the pesto & fake-sausage pasta, but then she waved me inside and pointed to an overturned canvas tray on the floor. Beneath it, she said, was a baby mouse she'd just captured. Some days ago she'd captured and relocated its mother to an abandoned house up Dug Hill Road (41.93918N, 74.117747W), and she'd felt bad about separating the family; earlier she'd seen the babies riding around on the back of the mother and the thought that now the babies were having to fend for themselves in our house had made her sad. My task was to slide a tray under the canvas tray and then drive the whole thing to the aforementioned abandoned house and then release the baby mouse under the white door, where, hopefully, he might be able to find his mother. In case he was hungry, I gave him a cracker dipped in peanut butter as an initial care package for his new life of making do in a completely unknown building. When dealing with animals that must be relocated to make human life possible, the sad fact is that most relocated animals in a new environment do poorly. So the goal is always to provide plausible scenarios of relocaion success: in this case, the reunion of a baby mouse with its mother in a completely unknown environment. Living with the creatures had proved unbearable, and so we had to relocate them in a way that provided them the possibility (if not the probability) of a good life somewhere else. Maybe our tricks fail and the creatures are immediatly eaten by snakes or owls. But there is a non-zero change that they will burgeon there and produce something of a rodential renaissance, perhaps even forming the stem group of organisms that repopulate the world after a climate-change-precipitated global catastrophe.
I could go on and on about the pasta with fake sausage and green beans, or about the limeade drink Gretchen mixed with aged rum (not a good combination, as it turns out), or about the cardboard fire the cool evening compelled to make yet again in the woodstove, but it's nothing that hasn't happened dozens of times before.
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