incident with a baby bear
Tuesday, November 12 2013
I was coming back from my usual morning ritual, with usually involves birthing some eyeless one-legged brown children in the brownhouse and excavating a bucket of rocks from the floor of the greenhouse, when I encountered Gretchen running in horror around the north end of the house to get me. "What is it?" I demanded, sure that it couldn't be as bad as her expression suggested (after 13 years I know how to read her). Behind her were Ramona and Eleanor, who, she announced, had just been rolling around on the forest floor with a baby bear. It might have been a baby of only 50 pounds (Ramona's size), but it had nevertheless inflicted some injuries. Eleanor had a couple punctures (some of which had bled profusely) through her skin on her left side and a couple lacerations on her right wrist. That wrist was so messed up that Eleanor was walking with a pronounced limp. As for Ramona, she seemed perfectly fine and had been last seen taking a blood-producing bite out of the bear's ass as it climbed a tree. Later, though, we found a hard tennis-ball-sized mass in her neck that seemed to be a hematoma caused by a bite. Though less severe than Eleanor's last tangle with wild nature, the injuries were similar enough to those to suggest that both came from the same source. And since this time Gretchen had seen it happen, it's safe to conclude that both occasions were bear-related. Gretchen had screamed so much during the episode that her voice had become raspy. She says the incident happened near the end of the Stick Trail (41.923514N, 74.110036W).
Gretchen and I would be going away for a week soon and our housesitters would include a particularly anxious friend, so we thought it best not to take Eleanor to the vet, which would result in an antibiotic regimen to be given in our absence. Instead I superglued Eleanor's four injuries back together. Unlike Ramona, Eleanor doesn't mess with her repaired injuries very much, so I could be confident the glue would hold them together long enough for them to heal.
As for the question of why bears have been so troublesome this year after ten previous years of no trouble from them whatsoever, one possible explanation is Periodic Cicadas. Supposedly cicadas have weakened trees throughout the region by damaging their branches with their egg laying, and this has reduced acorn and other nut crops. This in turn has made bears (and squirrels) more aggressive about finding food, forcing them to spend more of their days foraging and causing the ones that hibernate to do so later. If the bear problem is a once-every-17-year thing, we can probably handle it. It would be bad, though, if it became the new normal.
Some steam-off-blowing diversion in the greenhouse basement today managed to break loose some unusually large pieces from this new, difficult layer of bedrock I've been encountering. Once it was out of the way, I examined the cleaned-up profile of the blocks of hard bluestone into which I have not cut. The one that lies to the northwest of the ongoing excavation used to form the side of a 3/8 inch gap that I'd discovered devoid of anything but air, leading me to conclude that it had served as a channel for groundwater. Looking at it today, I saw that it was seated on a thin bed of clay (decomposed shale) and had actually slid southeastward about a quarter inch with respect to the next layer down. What could have caused such movement? Since this was in the same direction as the overhead glaciers had flowed, it seemed to suggest that the glaciers had managed to push the uppermost layers of the bedrock slightly southward without ever touching them. Immediately above this layer of bluestone had been more than a foot of shale. That shale had been full of the sort of cracks that could have come from being smeared a short distance by the advance of a layer of ice thousands of feet thick.
Over the course of the day, the weather took a strong turn for the unseasonably cold. This became an issue in the evening, when our household network of smoke detectors started chirping (as they sometimes do). Unlike the ionizing form of smoke detector, ours work by looking for changes of opacity in the atmosphere, and I suspect that occasional incursions of spiders or other small arthropods are sometimes interpreted as wisps of dangerous smoke. Eleanor interpres these chirps, no matter how isolated and random, as meaning the house is about to go supernova, and she always evacuates, sometimes fleeing to the doghouse (which, at this time of year, is nearly full of pine needles). This evening she disappeared and I couldn't find her anywhere. I was worried about her because of her gimpy walking and superglued injuries. So I hollered and hollered for her. She eventually materialized after I went into the greenhouse upstairs with a flashlight determined to check the places I couldn't see from the door. The whole scenario repeated again much later, in the wee hours of the morning (as I was working on my Lightroom plugin), when the smoke detector chirping sent Eleanor fleeing again and, after hours of her absence, I went to look for her and found her on the futon in the greenhouse upstairs. There had been no sun today and it was as cold in there as it was outside (I'm going to say somewhere in the 20s).
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