My son, Harrison, inspects a black bear I took in 2003, not far from the site of a recent encounter my kids had with another bear, which they wrote about.
When I was a kid — way before the World Wrestling Foundation, E.T. or even Star Wars — the Saturday evening entertainment wasn’t a night out at the movies, it was watching black bears gorge themselves on table scraps at the Newcomb dump.
Back before it became politically incorrect to heave your bags of trash into the big crater in the earth, dumps in locales like Newcomb, Long Lake and Tupper Lake were legendary for nightly visits from bruins who became supersized on discarded leftovers.
We’d kick back in ratty lawn chairs and watch them for hours as house flies buzzed around their tiny clamshell ears. We’d give them names like Bone Crusher, Pizza Face and Budweiser.
Oh how we’d chuckle.
Locals would recognize them year after year and would speak about them over morning coffee.
They’d say things like, “Pizza Face looks like he’s a muffin over 600 pounds this year.” And, “I nearly smacked Budweiser this morning with my pickup.”
Even more fun was watching the visiting flatlanders who — forgetting the fact that Budweiser, Pizza Face and Bone Crusher were wild creatures capable of swatting them off the planet like a black fly — would attempt to feed them by hand or get close enough to add one to the background of a family portrait.
I once saw a guy nearly lose his hand in an attempt to feed a marshmallow to one absolutely humongous bear as his three young children looked on in horror. Of course, we later named the bear Marshmallow.
Oh, those were the days.
Today, things are different. Dumps are now transfer stations (just exactly where do they transfer all that great bear food to anyway?) and bears have been forced to fall back on their natural instincts for food.
Editor’s Note: The following is a firsthand account written by my son Harrison, age 10, with help from my daughter Malena, age 8, about an encounter they had with a wild bear at their home in Schroon Lake. They titled the piece, “The Sunday Bear.”
By Harrison and Malena Gereau
On Sunday morning, me, my mom and my sister were walking to the car to go to church. Mom stopped us as we approached the car and low and behold a bear had gotten into our car. It looked as if the bear climbed into the car through the window. There were paw prints all over the car door. My sister said that she thought the bear had a cub, because there were small and big paw prints.
Last week, we lost our cat named Bitty Boo. We think the bear had something to do with that. She just wandered into the woods and has not come back yet.
That same morning after the bear got into the car, we figured out that he or she had bit into the new can of sunscreen and it squirted all over the inside and outside of the car. He or she also bit into the tip of our mother’s car seat. One other thing that the bear almost demolished was a whole container of baby wipes! Those things were all that were inside the car that night.
It was very fun to tell friends about the creature, but we sure hope he’s gone away.
Of course, being the opportunists they are, bears will most likely always step on the toes of humans now and again.
Such was the case last weekend when my kids, Harrison and Malena, discovered that a bear had climbed into the family car while it sat in the driveway of their Schroon Lake home.
The only real casualty was a tube of sunscreen and container of baby wipes the bear took a hankering to — but I’ll let my kids tell you the full story. Their version is attached to this column.
Great job on the story, by the way, guys. I think we should call the bear “sunscreen.” (I can picture them giggling on the couch at that one.)
Senior wildlife biologist Ed Reed said the number of nuisance bear complaints in DEC Region 5 has been very low this year, at just 20. Most have been reports of raided garbage cans and bird feeders.
“Normally we have more like 150 complaints by now,” Reed said.
Reed attributes the low number of complaints to above average natural food sources for bears, like berries, apples, black cherries, acorns and beechnuts.
Bear complaints normally rise during years when food sources like these are scarce, often during very dry spells.
That was not a problem this spring, and the natural food offerings have bears fat and happy and out of the back yards of most of us.
Unfortunately for hunters, seasons of above average sources of food usually mean below average bear harvests during the early and regular season, as the bruins become hard to locate and pattern.
We shall see if that trend holds true when the early bear season in these parts opens Sept. 17.
In the meantime, I know one bear that shouldn’t be burning the roof of its mouth anytime soon.
That one was for you, Harrison and Malena.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and a very proud father of two aspiring authors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.