Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Garrett County’

“…and bears, oh my!”

In Camping, Nature on June 6, 2022 at 4:15 pm
Hello, cutie-pie. (Not my photo.)

We’re spending the summer volunteering at a state park. A lot of folks are unaware that Maryland extends west to the Appalachian plateau. Properly speaking, Garrett County, were we’re living this summer, lies in the Allegheny Mountains, which form the western flank of the Appalachian Mountain Range. They’re called mountains. Frankly, they’re more hills, lovely hills, but hills, nonetheless. You’ll find us here, nestled in these lovely hills, banked against a lovely lake, living in our lovely Airstream, under a thick canopy of lovely oaks , beech, and maples. My feeders are regularly visited by a host of neighbors, goldfinches, nuthatches, ruby-throated humming birds, a variety of woodpeckers, and titmice. The traveling warblers are moving on now but the last few weeks have been tremendous, warbler song filling every nook and cranny of the woods. 

Life under the awning.

Birds aren’t our only neighbors. Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates a black bear density of around 65 per hundred square miles in Garrett County. Garrett County consists of 656 square miles. Do the math. We’re home to about 425 bears, give or take. And a few have stopped by to pay us a visit. 

We have a bear box, as is necessary, in this campground. Every night I take down my bird feeders, six total, and place them in the box. The box sits about six feet from the end of our picnic table and about twenty feet from the door to the Airstream. A couple weeks ago I heard a terrible banging outside. It was the middle of the night. Carole from the safety of the bed: “Don’t open the door!” My flashlight didn’t penetrate our smoked glass windows, only reflected back in my eyes. Consequently, I slowly opened the door. Momma bear turned to give me the stink-eye. I shined the light in her face. She grunted and the hair on the back of my neck stood at attention. From behind the bear box a cub, weighing, I’d guess, around thirty pounds, jumped up on the oak. Mom’s silhouette obscured the entire bear box, she was that big—by far the largest black bear I’ve ever seen. They eventually slipped away into the woods, like ghosts. 

Our bear box.

Two nights later they returned to clean my grill, dragging it from under our awning, about three feet from our pillows, on the other side of the Airstream’s aluminum skin. When I went out to confront them, momma had the grill dismantled and was licking clean the grates. Thank you very much. I tried to shoo them off, but she was intent on finishing the job. No point in starting a job you’re not going to complete. Eventually she and baby bear ambled off, licking BBQ sauce from their cheeks. 

Last night they came back. The grill was secured, the feeders put away, consequently they just expressed their disappointment by beating and pounding on the bear box like spoiled children. I tried to reason with them. “It’s 2:30 in the morning, com’on guys, go to bed.” Eventually they gave up and headed off. I returned to bed grateful I was not a tent camper.

 * * *

A couple hours after writing the above Cooper went nuts on the deck under the awning. Cooper doesn’t go nuts. He’s chill. I stared into the woods down the hill but saw nothing. He paced back and forth, crying and whining. A moment later a call to the rangers came over the radio. “Bear at the dumpster by the entrance gate.” 

It’s going to be an interesting summer.

That’s the report from the woods. Thanks for reading.