Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

The Bear Facts

I’m afraid of bears. There, I’ve said it. Those large, furry beasts with big, powerful claws and teeth, scare me. Even when I’m up on a horse, bears make me nervous. To have one around the yard, makes me very jumpy indeed. At least being afraid of bears, makes far more sense than my ridiculous fear of sharks. The area has loads of bears but as we’re on the beginning of the Canadian prairies, there’s no fear of meeting up with a shark, not ever. Still, there’s no accounting for some fears, they simply are what they are. No sharks to get me or mine, but bears were a real possibility.
I hated that my hubby insisted on parking the semi in the back yard. It would darn near kill me to have to walk to it, at four in the morning, in order to head for work. The minute I stepped out of the house, and began to walk towards the backyard, I would be nervously singing, “Don’t be any bears … or skunks. Just run away. Don’t be around that corner, or behind the barn. Please, no bears, no skunks.”
By the time I reached the truck and scrambled up into the cab, I was imagining a bear chewing on my heels, and a shudder or two would usually race through me. I still had to do my circle check, thump the tires and look for problems, but with the truck running, any wild critters were hopefully scared off. There was also the back gate to unlock and open, drive through and reclose to get through, but again, with the truck running and driver’s door open for a hasty retreat, I felt somewhat safer. My concern was real, and I thought, ever present. At least the possibility surely was.
One weekend, when hubby and I were busy doing our separate jobs, me planting flowers around the house, where I could keep an eye on the kidlets who were playing in their sandbox, hubby working on the semi in the back, I wheeled a load of weeds to the burning pile, only to notice that the horses were all attentively watching something. Following their rapt gaze, I saw it. There a quarter of a mile from where I stood, a huge bear was meandering along the fenceline that divides our back pastures! This was no figment of my imagination. There before me was a bigger than I could imagine, real live, black bear! Racing to where hubby was welding, I got his attention and pointed. For a few minutes, we watched as the bear ambled along, until it disappeared into the large thicket of willows that took up a corner of our, and our neighbour’s property.
Sharing a look with hubby, I wasn’t at all impressed with this new turn of events. The idea that there was a big bear hanging around wasn’t one, I was at all keen on. We had small children and critters, like the dogs and pony to worry about. I did what I knew would see results, I called natural resources. This was their area of expertise. They would know what to do.
They did know what to do. That very same day, a large, baited bear trap was set up near the willows, and that was that. They were absolutely sure the bear would be caught in no time at all, problem solved. Later that same afternoon, they returned with some roadkill that bears were apparently unable to resist, a dead beaver. I assisted with gates, they drove through and headed for the far corner of the pasture with my warning caution to be careful. The horses were endlessly nosy, drive slowly. They had promised they would, and I left them to it. They returned to check the trap two more times that day, each time with a bigger truck and more natural resources officers, and I began to feel concerned.
Catching them on one of their ‘trap checks’ I had to ask, “um, should I be extra concerned? Is this some rogue bear or something? Are we in danger?”
By now there were six resource officers in the truck, and my questions were met with somewhat sheepish and bashful smiles.
“No,” shaking his head, the driver gave a little shrug, “it’s just your horses. They’re so amazing … you know, how they run after the truck like that? We’ve been telling everyone, and they wanted to see that, too. They’re just so friendly and it’s so cool. I hope that’s okay?”
Immediately relieved, I began to chuckle, “Oh, thank goodness that’s all it is. I was getting worried. Do you think it’s even still here?”
“Probably not,” one answered, “they find beavers really hard to resist. If it was still here, it probably would have gone in by now. We’ll leave the trap a while longer though, just in case.”
So the random visits continued. The trap remained, and day after day, no bear was caught.
Over the space of that time, I still had to check fences, and noticed how the horses hung back, when I got to the stretch bordering the low area where the willows were. The whole time I was working on the fence, the hairs would be standing up on the back of my neck, and I felt like I was being watched. It was a feeling I couldn’t shake. The bear was still there. I was sure of it.
The following weekend, I was doing yard work, the kids were playing by the house, and hubby was, as usual, working on the trucks. Going to see if he wanted a cold drink, I noticed straight off that the horses were at full attention. They were staring towards the corner, where the trap was. There running, full steam ahead was the bear! Racing to hubby, I pointed at it, “Bear!” I shouted, pointing as I ran by him back to the house. I had to make sure, the kids were safe. After rushing them into the house, and warning them to stay inside, no matter what, I raced back to hubby. I was just in time to watch the bear coming full tilt along the fence, I was amazed by how fast it could run. When it got to our back driveway, which is rather wide to accommodate the semi, it cleared it in a single bound! No jumper could’ve done better. It didn’t continue along the perimeter of our property. Instead, it made a sharp turn and galloped up the path that led straight to the house! Thank goodness, I had put the kidlets safely inside. The path led directly to where they’d been playing.
Running through the quonset, while hubby hopped into a vehicle and drove around to the front. Standing there just outside the man-door of our arch-rib building, I tried to see where the bear had gone. Hubby showed up with the pickup and raised his shoulders with a shrug that said, he didn’t know where it was either. Suddenly, I had that ‘goosebumps on the arms’ feeling. Slowly turning my head, I looked to my left and down, and there it was, looking back at me. That darn bear was almost hidden in the thick bush, but those shiny, dark eyes and black form were unmistakable. I don’t know what it was thinking, but it just stood there … staring. Motioning at it, I didn’t dare raise my voice. I didn’t want to do anything that might prompt it to be unpleasantly reactive. I was frozen in place. Of course, hubby didn’t clue into what I thought were very clear gestures.
“Bear,” I said with hushed words, “the bear, it’s right here, beside me.”
“The bear,” I urgently repeated, “is right there.”
The light suddenly came on. Hubby drove up to where I stood, and I hopped in. Almost immediately, the bear bolted. Through the bush, right on by the play structure where the kidlets had been playing then past the house, and up the driveway with speed that belied its considerable bulk. By the time we drove to the end of the driveway and the couple hundred feet to the corner, it was a quarter mile up the road, and showed no sign of slowing. Our bear problem was gone.
We learned a few days later that it was finally caught and relocated. They said it was a boar, a huge one. That bear is what I thought of, whenever I had to walk in the dark to the truck. Flashlight or no, I didn’t want to meet up with any wild bear. That bear is what still comes to mind, whenever I have to go out into the dark.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB