Once, on a cold misty day when walking home along an old logging road, I came upon a dead deer lying in the middle of the road with her heart ripped out. She was unmarked except for a bloody hole in her chest. No sign of a struggle, no damage to her head, neck or legs.
Later, a local old-timer told me that bears were known to do this, though I don’t find it in any of the text descriptions of black bear diet. However, I can’t think of anything else that could have done it.
[photo above is taken from Wikipedia Commons]
I was (and still am) in the habit of taking long hikes by myself into the wilderness almost always off-road. I know the area very well, having hiked all over it for many years now. While I was aware that bears were there, I was under the impression that they were not any kind of real threat as long as I didn’t shoot them or mess with mothers with cubs. After seeing the dead doe, I started taking them a bit more seriously.
I have been charged by bears twice. One was described in an earlier post; the other happened on ridge right behind my house. The bear was in a tree (before I got there) and came tearing down, making an incredible amount of noise, jumping the last ten feet, and hitting the ground running — toward me. It charged directly through the intervening underbrush until it burst onto the old logging road on which I was standing (and by then, shouting), whereupon it did a perfect 180 and ran back the way it had come. I have no idea what provoked it, though hunters have told me that bears have terrible eyesight, so it may have mistaken me for another bear (to which I take offense!).
I have had a variety of other semi-close encounters, and many distant sightings or ‘hearings’.
According to my Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries calendar, the mother bears have their babies in February (other sources say they have them in January). Cubs aren’t able to get around for about three months, so the mothers must have to stay in or near their dens for that amount of time. Which makes me wonder where the heck those dens might be. I have never seen a bear in a den. There’s a lot of terrain around me that should appeal to bears — nice and rocky with thick laurel patches (shown below is the side of the upper end of the ridge on which my house sits).
I have quite a few places that are near my hiking routes that look like they might appeal to a mother bear. So, yesterday, I set out with my camera to see if any of them were at home. As this is really a stupid thing to do when you have a Jack Russell accompanying you, it’s a good thing I didn’t find any bears.
I wonder where they are? Especially since it was almost seventy degrees yesterday, and the mothers should be feeling pretty grumpy.
More information on bears, go here. For information on bear hibernation and dens, go here. For a story about a dummy who lives not too far from me; who shot a 600 pound bear repeatedly, then crawled around in the laurel after it — and got mauled, go here.