Bears, Raccoons, and Birds–OH MY!
September 23, 2021
When I was little and having sleep over parties with my best friend, Jeannie Patrick, she taught me a song about a bear that she learned at Bible school camp. It had a cute, little rhythm and I would sing the same line she started. It went a little something like this:
There was a bear/There was a bear
Oh way up there/Oh way up there
Up in the woods/Up in the woods
Oh way up there/Oh way up there
I couldn’t help but think of that song when my friend Judy sent me a text last Sunday telling me to close my garage and be careful because a bear was spotted in my condominium development. I couldn’t believe it–well I take that back. Yes, I can believe it because bear sightings in Mahoning county seem to be the norm lately. That leads me to my question and eventually this op-ed. What the heck is going on with wild bears infiltrating our living space? Look, I get we as humans are taking more and more land away from wildlife. Constant building and establishing new housing developments are stripping away animals’ homes. And let’s face it, they were here first. Lately, I have a lot more deer in my backyard and yes, I love seeing the little babies running through my yard. However, I don’t like seeing a six point buck staring me down at the end of my driveway, and I do not want to ever encounter a black bear on my walks. So, why are they roaming around neighborhoods?
According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, bears aren’t looking for fight; they just are lost and looking for food. “Mom [bear] tells him [baby bear] it’s time to get his own space. The mother will tolerate female offspring near her territory but male offspring are a threat to her future generations,” explains Jamey Emmert of ODOW. “So she will make sure they get far away and they will venture out looking for food, water, shelter or space.” Let’s just hope that space isn’t my backyard!
Speaking of food, that is a huge issue. People think they are doing wild animals a favor by feeding them; they don’t realize they are just adding to the problem of them hanging around inhabited areas. I hear stories of people saying, “Oh I fed a raccoon with my hand when they came on my porch.” I don’t know about you, but I’m fond of my hands and these people are being irresponsible with not just their safety but the safety of all of us innocently sitting on our porch. When I saw our local news stories reporting about bear sightings, some pictures showed bears in Austintown attacking a homeowner’s bird feeder. Obviously, that was his lunch. The first recommendation from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is to remove all bird feeders around your home. Don’t even get me started on my neighbors’ obsession with feeding birds. Aren’t birds self-sufficient? I mean, they have a plethora of bugs and worms at their disposal. Bird food doesn’t just attract cute, little yellow finches. They attract huge, angry raccoons and now BEARS!
All I know is that after a long day of teaching or a hard tennis clinic, I love to come home and sit on my porch and take in the smells of summer and the warmth of the sun. I shouldn’t have to arm myself with a big stick, pepper spray, and my phone ready to call 911. I understand the world is changing, but the constant take over of these animals’ habitats to erect buildings while so many remain or become vacant just doesn’t make sense to me. It seems like the problems will only continue and get worse though and that scares me.
After a few days after the bear sighting in my neighborhood, I felt I could go on my walks again and sit on my porch–eyes wide open of course. I thought back to the song that Jeannie and I used to sing and continued with the verses in my head:
He looked at me/He looked at me
I looked at him/ I looked at him
He sized up me/I sized up him
He said to me, “Why don’t you run?”
Um…Let’s just hope this part of the song doesn’t come true.