ANIMAL STORIES AND MORE follow -- On Bird Stories



Living in the Pacific Northwest I have many bear stories This one involves a mother bear tossing apples down to her cub below.  What people do not know about bears is that they talk. Yes, they talk. All the time she was tossing the apples down to her child, he/she was gobbling away and the mother and child talked.

I assure you that I was not smoking anything!, yet this was communication  I had never witnessed ever before amongst animals. I am not talking about woofs or snorts; I am talking about sentences and paragraphs that involved emotion. I do get upset about their killings, their stuffing, mounting and disrespectful display of bodies. It really bothers me. Bears are very special creatures, so are raccoons. I suspect if we monkeys ever exterminate ourselves, I hope the next replacement might come from the two specie mentioned in this post.

Two days earlier, I had been in this pasture picking blackberries. I come to this apple tree and felt something strange.. I look up and see this big black blob.. I have no understanding of what it is. Suddenly I see a big flash of white teeth. Slow, learner that I am, I now put it all together. That is one angry bear, and it is right above my head. I scream and run to the road, hurdle (swear to god) the barb wire fence and keep running up to my driveway.

Looking over my shoulder I see the bear running in the opposite direction. Both of us were equally scared of each other. A few days later I watched the activity again. I also took my rifle and started shooting at the tree, hoping to frighten them off. In WA. State (at that time) there were no restrictions on hunting a bear, even if it is a female with a cub.

Thankfully things have changed and one must now obtain a bear tag in order to kill one. The season overlaps deer and elk seasons, beginning in Sept. Most hunters pick up such a tag, just in case they come across a bear while hunting deer or elk. The meat, depending on what has been eaten is far better than deer. I have also eaten cougar, which was surprisingly good. Recently, there was a story about a hunter who stumbled into a 7ft, .six hundred pound black bear while hunting deer. The picture reminded me of a Grizzly. I would not have wanted to meet that big guy. A local paper, printed that story and laid out that bear picture on the front page. This created a stir of controversy, as one Dolores was to find out.

I agree with one poster, Dolores might have liked the article more if it had included some recipes for bear meat. Oh, I near forgot - .my  mother bear with the cub was shot within the week.

Bears would also factor in on an injury I had while riding an Arabian horse. I never knew that horses came equipped with four footed brakes. She smelled the bear before we even saw it - braked and I went flying. Hit the road, rolled down a small cliff until a tree stoped my head. By the time I came to, the owner who had been riding safely behind me was yelling at me to get the #$*&^G ing horse. With blood streaming down from my head and arms and two smashed knees, I hobbled back to my farm.

We all know that some plants have scents that delight the human nose. Sadly we are mere Jimmie-come-latelies to a relationship that began between plants and insects. A relationship that is some 150 million years older than our own.

Many early morning or late evening flowers generate this heat to make their scent more powerful. Cold sluggish bees associate this aroma with a relished snack of warmth as well as the promise of nectar or pollen. On cool days this is an added incentive to come hither first, thus furthering the plants chance of being pollinated and setting seed. Providing this extra heat in these extended hours of the day, also encourages the bee to lengthen her workday.

Tricky little things aren’t they! Their manipulation and cultivation of human beings is ongoing. That is why I avoid having any plant in the same room with me. Outdoors, I trust them, but not when I close my eyes. When little Gladiolus tristis flounces her sexy ways, it’s out the door with her. No watering, no pollinating from me. Let the bugs have her, I say! Those flowers that do not have scents use other tricks to fool the insect. Many plants such as Forget-Me-Not’s, Tradescantia, Pulmonarias, Yesterday-Today-And Tomorrow fade from one color to another and are educating the bee that rceptive to you.. I am more attractive. I have pollen or nectar. Don’t come back when I’m feeling blue.

Actually, bees like both colors. Blue to Pink, or vice versa. No matter-upon returning to the hive, they chat with the rest of the gals, this is a great plant but go for the pink first, and leave the other color alone. The faded color, of course is older and contains less nectar or pollen.

The males are never told anything. Bees tend to work on very specific nectar sources at certain times of the day. It was always fun to label shallow supers as to what plants they were working upon. I used to do this on a daily basis, making notes as to what was blooming and being worked. Poison Oak, for example made a great honey, and eating it may have made me partially immune to the plant. Then again, I used to consume much honey.

Maybe that is why someone addressed me as SUGAR today. Gee golly, I don’t think anyone ever called me that. Not white and fluffy, nor even that white pour able kind. Guess she meant that dark brown congealed stuff.  

Someday I will have to go through my many bee-keeping adventures. A hobby my ex-wife  never appreciated.. I thought that having 6 hives on the back porch was delightful as well as aromatic. For some reason she did not. Nor was she happy when I did not clean up the honey extraction efforts in the kitchen before going back to work. How was I to know that the robbed hive would  follow the scent trail down the chimney - through the wood stove and would  perish on HER kitchen floor. I don't even think she needed the phone to scream at me, now (safely I thought) back at the Garden Center ten miles away.  

I would add that other  mis-adventures would happen  as well. Hives need to be moved in a careful manner. Either one moves them miles away or by the foot. If not done in that manner they will try to return to the previous site. One evening I deleted some of these  hives and took them to my mothers property. I now only had three hives on the deck and I began to slide them away from the porch door ... one foot at a time. As fate would have it, a popped up nail caught the bottom of the hive and the body became detached.

Doing this with no shoes and shorts may have been questionable at best. Needless to say, the inhabitants were pissed off. With bees crawling and stinging upwards to my nether regions I nonetheless re-connected the body parts of the hive before diving through the porch door, through the house and exiting from the front entrance. I striped and dislodged most of the bees and discovered that I suddenly had a much larger member. And that was decades before Viagra. 

Now the picture to the left is not me but it does offer a minor reflection as to what happened to me when I tried to rescue a stray colony that was parked  above the door of Penny's In Santa Cruz.

I was always willing to respond to the call of wild bee swarms and the Ag. Inspector would call upon me to remove such swarms. COOL! I responded to that call and went to check out the swarm before getting my smoker and gear. To test their level of belligerency I gave the rather large swarm a gentle but breathy kiss.

The nesting swarm responded by detaching themselves and settling down on me. I dove through the open window of my truck, cranked up the window and began to swat. My enthusiasm about this call had run its course, so I returned to the nursery to continue working. One eye open is good enough, or so I thought. Vallie, my dear asst. manager took one look at me and told me to get lost. 'GO HOME!' "WHY". -- Her concern was that I would scare of all the customers.

Damn, I followed her advice but now I was on a hunting spree. I gathered all my equipment and a spare hive. Caught the swarm and took them to my Mom's. She always was glad to see me, no matter how I looked. BTW -- add lips swollen to a Homer Simpson level and you would get a better picture. Even a long necked glass of beer barely passed through those lips and I could see them looking down at them. Vallie may have been correct in her assessment those many years ago.
The same thing happened decades later as I was weeding out/and into a ground wasp nest. Having ones mouth open at such a time is never  a good idea. I had dozens of stings on my lips and inside my mouth. By the time I got to my best friends house (Dumpster) I had swollen even worse than before. His wife near fainted, while he ran off to get his camera. I gave up and returned home to some long necked cold beers.
Not really an animal story but I must add a taxidermy note.
 I had a VERY bad hiking date in CO. Long story, made short. Before setting out on an overnight 20 mile hike, I had to … drop her off to get her NAILS done for Christ sake. While waiting, I meandered up to an antique store. The owner was a small gal, pregnant and we began to talk.

I happened to mention the date. She asks, "Where is she?" I pointed down the road and said... I dropped her off down there. They said they should be finished with her in a few hours. That’s why I’m here. What I unwittingly had pointed to was the local taxidermy place, which hid the beauty salon just behind.

She actually turned white and started to look for some protective piece of weaponry. I have that way with women! Upon reflection I think that was an odd pair of businesses to be next to each other. Then again, the weather in AZ and the deserts of CO, do that to their women.

It is a close call -- which one you would send your wife to?

In the tent that night she noticed that I had squiggled my way down from the edge of the tent. "Why are you doing that?" I explained, that when bears examine a tent - they usually grab the head closest to the wall. I guess I was still pissed off when she had stooped at a small stream and wouldn't jump the rocks. "I don't want to get my shoes wet."  I growled back un-Galahad like, " Do you expect me to lay down so you can clamber across on my back" The hike would get much worse and we made slow mileage with a stop at every hill.  I turned  back after a few bad lightning scares ... for she would continue to venture into the open hills. I foresaw bringing her back crispy-crittered and I didn't even know where her parents were.

As for the tent, I paid for that bear comment,. for with every mouse squeak she would hit me awake.

Accidents do happen and one simply has to make the best of the situation as the next story proves.


While pruning today, I remembered this raccoon story!
A few years ago I heard some suspicious noises in my 'moved out' daughter’s bedroom. DAMN, those cats have got into the food bag again! I got out of bed -- and to set the stage,  that without my glasses I'm kind of blind. I'm barefoot and only wearing my underpants as well.

I slam open the door expecting to find my two cats wolfing down the large sack I always keep in her room. Instead I find a huge furry critter making all sorts of angry, squealing noses. I start chasing it around, and realize my own exposed and vulnerable situation.

This was not a cat! I close the door, get dressed, put on my glasses -I open all the other doors in the house and return to the bedroom ...
Upon opening the door I suddenly realize that this is one VERY BIG and VERY ANGRY Mama Raccoon staking firm claim over the cat food bag. Closing the door, I retreat once again. I return, now well armed with a broom. MAMA RACCOON stands up on her hind legs and takes me on. SWAT, SWAT, swat ... I retreat again..

Realizing that I have encountered more than bare feet should ever be asked to face, I put on my boots and get a flat bladed shovel. I enter and whack the raccoon once again. This time I beat her out of the bedroom, down the hall and out through the back porch. WHEW!

I return to bed, lay down, and all of a sudden hear a familiar munch, munch, munch. I open the door and find five or six raccoon children taking their pleasure with the food. I open the other doors of the house (NOT!!! the back porch door ;) and return with the broom. SWAT, SWAT, SWAT! -- Raccoons are flying all over my house, over the kitchen table, over the couch, under the table -- until I finally got all of them out!

I return to the back porch to see them all chattering at me, as if to ask, why I had been so RUDE. That MAMA was a good hefty sized creature, and with her fur flying out she looked like some Stephen King nightmare. All  this Mad-psycho  Raccoon had been doing was protecting her young!   

Somehow I had forgotten my water friends as someone reminded me. She mentioned her love of Whales and their ability to dive. I then remembered the elephant seal experience I had while going to U.C.S.C. in the early 70's under  the biologist  Burney Le Boeuf.

Año Nuevo Island  - The Lighthouse and elephant seals.

I responded that I love cetaceans and would hope that they would survive whatever mankind does to the planet. I nearly went into Oceanography and Marine Biology but things happened. I couldn't finish University. Here in Clallam County WA. near Neah Bay one can watch the Gray whales swim between an Island and the bluff. Get splashed by the sprays. Friends of mine kayak and have had Orcas come right next to them.

After my experience on  working with Elephant seals I had a run in with a seal. A researcher and  I had been snorkeling for our abalone dinner and while I was returning to shore I was hit from below and lifted clear out of the water. I was sure that it was a Great White shark and I must have butterflied to the shore faster than I ever did on the swim team.
 In fact I kept on swimming even when I got to clawing the gravel beach. Richard, who I worked under thought it was the funniest thing ever. "It's a SEAL!" At that moment I did not find it humorous at all.

 It was also payback for what I did to him when an elephant seal bull took unkindly to our bleaching tag marks on his large harem. I was safe in the lighthouse while Dick was scampering over the backs of the females trying to dive through a window. An Ichabod Crane in dung crapped hip boots. Trust me, by the time we would return to shore we were  so ever ripe. The dung depth was rather exceptional.

In hind site, Dick was wrong in his dismissal of the seal. I really had a dangerous encounter with that seal!!  Even had it been a harbor seal It could have taken quite a bite taken out of me. If it was a Sea Lion it could've killed me easily.  I tend to steer clear of wild animals and have learned a few avoidance techniques. Smiling, say  at monkeys or apes can be interpreted as a sign of aggression/challenge. At a zoo you might have some dung thrown at you -- in the wild you might be charged.

The same  goes with direct  eye contact.

If you have comments or stories to add please contact me.

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(c) Herb Senft 2013