W H O I A M W H A T T H I S I S A N D W H Y I ' M D O I N G I T
I'm Lori Goodman, creator of Live Ducks, a website I created in 1997 that's all about domestic ducks and the people who care for them. Since I live in the Los Angeles area primarily you may be wondering "why ducks to bears?", here's my back story:
No bears or humans were harmed in my "mauling" incident Greg creates his very first chainsaw bear!
My husband Greg and I love the outdoors, particularly the backwoods. We are tent campers and have spent some time in the California Sierras where black bears are plentiful and curious. Most sightings we've had are bears scouring campsites or fishing spots looking for food. That's the first thing that got my attention. Bears are supposed to eat bear food not people food. Just like ducks and other animals in wild settings, it can't be good for their survival to stray from their natural diet.
More and more people are enjoying activities that take their tennied feet away from hard concrete and onto nature's soft (sometimes squishy) and always exciting great outdoor trails. Greg and I are no different and we get away from the city every chance we get, usually about once a month.
A few years back we bought a few acres in the remote northwest Cabinet Mountain region of Montana where black bears are common and grizzlies are making a historic comeback thanks to relocation and reintroduction efforts. Evidence of the growing population of bears in the area is mounting. We find bear scat (poop) laden with berries and well established trails that seem too big to be deer or elk game trails all over our property and we are bordered primarily by state land and neighbors who haven't built (and hopefully won't be doing that anytime soon!).
Springtime view from the bluff on our Montana property
About two years ago our nearest neighbor (1/4 mile away through heavily forested land) had a large bear "knock" at her window while she was inside quilting. Another neighbor witnessed a sow and her cubs raiding their apple orchard. Another neighbor 2 miles away and close to the town watched a bear break an entire branch off their cherry tree to enjoy a sweet snack. It's very common for people to share huckleberry fields with hungry bears. A woman who runs a store in town talks about her kids getting ready to make their annual grizzly bear den visit. Last year Greg and I spotted a perfect set of young grizzly paw prints on the front window of our cabin. All of these events confirmed what I suspected (and secretly hoped) - we were living in the company of bears.
Of course my natural reaction was fear. I figured it was due to lack of knowledge about them. At the very least I wanted to learn how NOT to interfere with the bear's natural habitat so I picked up some books, informational brochures and flyers from sporting goods stores and ranger stations. I read about bear behavior primarily for the desire to reduce my fear and above all to stay safe in bear country.
Some of the more reputable literature opened my eyes to the fact that it's not all about our safe passage through the bear's turf. It's not only about preserving their habitat. It's just as much about us leaving them to do what bears do without any human interference. It's about us not changing their natural behavior in any way. That's more of a challenge than I thought but entirely doable with some basic bear education. So, that's what this website is designed to do - educate without confusion, teach without preaching and leave the politics to those who are into that sort of thing (I'm not).
A few humans I know and happen to like very much are not fans of bears like I am and would just as soon stuff and mount them. We talk about the weather and argue about logging. I've learned to accept things in Montana that wouldn't go over too well in urban Los Angeles. I was surprised at how many hunters I've met have a strong reverence and respect for nature and animals. Also surprising to me is the "bear facts" differ A LOT depending on who you talk to. I've listened to and read opinions of animal rights advocates, ranchers, hunters, backpackers, wildlife biologists, photographers, field researchers, Montana locals . . . and some of it is much different than what the general public has been taught. Good information can be gleaned from a variety of angles as long as the goal is to keep the health, safety and well-being in mind for BOTH humans and bears.
At the very least I hope to ease some of the fears you may have about bears and clear up some preconceived notions I grew up with that you might also share. The outdoors is a very special and increasingly rare place to find peace and escape from city demands and stresses. Los Angeles area camping usually means loud radios, drunken brawls, garbage everywhere and very little peace and quiet. We have to drive hundreds of miles from major cities to get the rest and relaxation we crave. For that reason Montana is where my heart lives now and in a few short years I plan to ditch L.A. and live there full-time.
In my Montana home I have a couple of rules. Anyone who visits my cabin may not ever - without exception - hunt on or near my land. I also enforce a no shooting rule on Sundays. I don't think wildlife likes hearing target practice any more than I do. We do not shoot any living thing including trees. We have a backdrop set up at a far corner of our land that is against a 1000 foot bluff and we stack our targets in front of railroad ties.
My Christmas gift from Greg two years ago was a cowboy hat, .44 calibur Smith and Wesson revolver, solid "bear rounds", speed loaders, holster and belt. After nearly tearing off my thumb trying to shoot the darn thing I traded Greg for a smaller "girl gun". Of course I realize the smaller calibur shooter will not take down a bear or stop a big cat attack. Along with the hopes that firing off a round will scare off a potential attacker I religiously carry bear spray on my side when hiking, stacking wood, building a winter bonfire, loading up trash or taking in the stunning canyon view high up on the bluff's edge. Wildlife is everywhere and I sure hope it stays that way.
Thanks for reading, fellow bears!