Here's the Scoop: July 15, 2009

The Wild Life
Sometimes, column topics change. Other times, they are reinforced.
This is one of those times.
This week’s topic was going to be about the adventures of moving to the “country” and the different types of experiences vs. the “city” living (Arkville) we had enjoyed over the years.

After a year-and-a-half of life in the woods, I was perplexed.
“Don’t you think it’s weird that we’ve never seen a bear while living up here?” I asked my wife a few months ago.
We both felt it was a bit odd. That, of course, has changed.
Because of a combination of larger bear populations and human encroachment, bear encounters in the Catskills have become as common as bare bottoms at nude beaches.
When my wife finally spotted a bear near our house on the way home from work, I was actually a bit relieved. A few days later, as we sat on the porch, the same bear ambled its way down the nearby road. I thought it was pretty cool.
In the past few weeks, bear sightings are way up — and I’ve got some blurry pictures to almost prove it!

Dinner conversation
The other night, as we sat outside with some guests having dinner, my Bear-ometer went off and I casually pointed out the bear that was strolling through the yard a few hundred feet away.
The bear glanced over with a look that said, “Oh, don’t mind me. Please continue eating. Enjoy your meal.”
Despite the bear’s laid-back attitude, we found the episode pretty exciting.
The action picked back up about 15 minutes later when the bear had completed its detour through the woods and arrived at its berry-picking (or is it beary-picking) destination below our house.
In a day when everyone (except me) has a camera all the time, one of our friends spotted the bear during its feast. The combination of using a camera with a small megapixel count and a not-so-close shooting distance gave a great result — Sasquatch! The more the image was enlarged, the grainier it got — this was National Enquirer material.
Fortunately, for the sake of a clear bear photo, I was in possession of a Catskill Mountain News camera equipped with a large telephoto lens. Let me tell you (since I can’t really show you), if I had remembered to turn that thing on, I could be filling this space with a nice bear shot.
Oddly enough, our small cat has been in the midst of things during just about every bear encounter. I think she’s puzzled by the creature, but not terribly afraid. Her only fear seems to be if the bear moves in to our house and wants to sleep at the foot of the bed with her.
Maybe the cat is nervous because I’ve begun referring to this creature as our “pet.” She needn’t worry — unless I name the bear. Which I plan to do. Still, the bear shouldn’t be moving in anytime soon. I hope.

A bear tale
Bear stories, like fish stories, usually involve an animal that is “larger than life.” So far, I have downplayed the size of this bruin. That’s because I haven’t been terribly close to the bear. Until this morning.
For some reason, just as I sat down to write this column, I glanced out the window and there was the bear, about six feet away (that’s two yards in Bear Measurements).
Oddly enough, I’m always pretty calm when I see the bear. I will admit, however, the bear is much bigger up close. I called my wife and ran to get the camera. But first I debated whether to stop the bear from climbing onto our porch — since it was a stride away from doing so.
I think the bear heard us talking and decided to head for the woods — but not before leaving something on the ground for me to run over with the lawn mower.
By the time I assembled the 300mm lens and got outside, the bear was moving away at a brisk pace. Still, I got a decent shot. Well, I mean, it was a good shot, except for the damaged memory card in the camera that yielded nothing — a bare image.
— Brian Sweeney