Last night, a lady who is a guest at Northwind Lodge came by the gallery to see if we had a bigger lasagna pan. My wife Annette was talking to her as I ran up to our house to find a bigger pan. I returned to the art gallery, pan in hand and gave it to our guest. At the same time, I was wondering why anyone would want to bake in this July heat, but they must have it figured out. Off she went to create what would be a very special lasagna. Meanwhile, as darkness set in, lightning flashed and thunder rolled in the distance. Rain was coming but nowhere near enough. I worried about a forest fire in the back of my mind.
Fast forward to morning after a very warm, muggy, night that settled into good sleeping weather after all. I went down to the gallery to make a cuppacoffee, and one of our departing lodge guests came in telling me of a bear roaming around last night. He watched the bear go over to the cabin across the way, stand up and start wailing on the kitchen window. Then the bear wandered around the cabin, checked out the garbage, and headed off to his own cabin. The bear was a good sized bear, standing about 40 inches at the shoulder. Wasn’t fat, definitely lean, but still healthy looking. The bear also wasn’t terribly afraid of humans but finally left for the evening.
The same guest was checking out after a long weekend stay and asked me about the rock -Ely Greenstone- and I told him where he could get a pick-up truck load if he wanted it – for free. He laughed and just wanted a few rocks. So, off he goes and in a half hour, back into the yard he returned. He came in to tell me two things: 1. he found the rocks; and 2. that same bear just walked across the Fernberg road from the Ojibway Lake access road and is heading down our driveway. I acknowledged that I would watch for the bear hoping he would not actually come back. Bears are a pain in the neck.
Then, the phone rang with a guest who was here last week and just returned to her Illinois home this past Saturday. I was talking to Sharon about some really nice photos she took during her stay to use in our social media and website. Wandering with a cordless phone as one does, I looked out the window behind the counter and a good sized bear with a really big head looked up at me through the glass panting in the hot summer air. Big pink gums, tongue, and yellow teeth. I was so close, I could have flossed his teeth for him. He was so tall, that, but for the pane of glass between us, he could have bitten me in the stomach without reaching up. Now, while my wife will point out that my layer of winter fat has not yet left (in my defense, my dog is still shedding her winter coat as well), I don’t really have a gut that hangs to the floor. When I say the bear’s nose comes level with the middle of me, that’s a pretty big bear. He was lanky, healthy looking, and young.
So, I tell Sharon on the phone “Holy crap! There’s a big bear outside the window, I gotta go get him!”, and then I run out the door like a “viking in my last fight before Valhalla” chasing after the bear. I got within 10 feet of his big black rear end and I realized he was just loping along as opposed to running in “full-blown-terror-because-a-crazy-guy-is-attacking”. Nevertheless, not wanting to back down, I continue my charge, roaring and trying to look bigger than the bear. On the hunt, I realized that the phone was still in my hand and I heard Sharon asking if “this was really happening?”. I responded with a “Yup. I’m on this bear’s butt right now.” and she said, “You gotta go!” and we then hung up.
I chased him up the hill past my Dad’s house and finally spotted a rock that I could throw. As he turned off of the driveway aiming for the cover of brush, I let fly with that rock, leading him like a duck on the wing but he disappeared into the broad daylight & bright green as fast as he appeared. (It’s amazing how they can do that. Like a ghost, plus they make no noise.) My rock’s trajectory ended up cleanly shearing off the top of a small white pine as if I struck the trunk with an axe. Too bad it didn’t hit the bear.
My dad was outside, trying to start his 4-wheeler to go down to the lake to see where the forest fire is. While chasing the bear, I hadn’t noticed the blue smoke everywhere. It was either fireworks or lightning but something somewhere was on fire. He watched me running after the bear but was unphased. We’ve both chased a lot of bears at this resort. I returned to my art gallery.
Fifteen minutes later, two girls came from their cabin talking about their bear experience. I thought they meant about last night. Heck, no – right now. The bear I chased, headed – over the meadow and through the woods – to their cabin – AGAIN. This time, he was loaded for lasagna. I made a beeline for their cabin with one of them noting how fast I can walk.
Now, in hunter/tracker mode, I saw how he came from the backside, past the kitchen window screen and cracked pane from his handy work of the prior evening. From there, he went to a smaller, higher, living room window to mangle that screen. Upon realizing it was too high and small to fit through, he headed around to the front, moved some deck chairs, climbed up on the picnic table and pushed in the big screen of the open window into the room. Then, with the casual impunity that only a bear can muster, he walked in, knocking over a lamp, and using a recliner for easy entry. He went to the table, swatted a box fan out of the way, and ate the remaining half of somebody’s chocolate bar leaving on the table, an empty wrapper. Then he knocked over a half a cup of coffee, licked it only a little (musta been Starbucks) and moved on. He walked the 12 feet into the kitchen and knocked over a bag just outside of the bedroom of the two girls who were in the cabin, in that room, at that time. (Think about that particular experience. LOL) Their parents were in town and had taken their dog with them. The girls had heard the window screen buckle when the bear was coming in. From behind their closed door, they screamed loudly and then proceeded to follow the instructions on the wall for a fast exit out the fire escape window. They were prepared to BALE OUT! One of them pushed the window screen and it released just as it was supposed to do. (It was a good test for me.) The next part is fuzzy but I think they stuck their heads out the escape window and saw the bear exiting back outside onto the deck from the window, retracing his steps. He actually went out the same way as he entered for which I am most thankful. Both girls headed over to tell me about it at that point.
When their parents returned, I surmised to their mom that her lasagna must be really exceptional and the bear was impressed to the point of a second, in-depth, look. While I was there working on the screen damage, one of the girls came out with a plate of said lasagna from last night for her lunch.
And, now I know why the bear was so persistent. That lasagna looked delicious. Then, just like a black bear stepping into the sunlit woods, it too, was gone.
Always be safe. Bears are not pets and they are not our friends. They are most definitely wild animals . As a definitive rule, we want to keep plenty of distance between us and bears AT ALL TIMES. While they may not look it, bears are incredibly strong, very agile, and quite fast. They also swim pretty good, too. They can turn on dime in demeanor and also physically. They usually make no noise when they walk. This event ended well with nobody getting hurt because they used their heads, made noise and planned an alternative exit strategy to stay safe. That is how we want every story at Northwind Lodge to end. When we have a bear at the resort, I will always be chasing it away and our guests should do the same. Yell, scream, wave your arms and throw rocks. We need the bear to associate general unpleasantness with every human it encounters. If it begins to feel comfortable around humans, we have to put it down. Finally, NEVER, EVER, intentionally feed the bears. He will always want one more marshmallow than you have left in the bag. Feeding bears intentionally results in one less bear on the planet 99.998% of the time. Please consider the bear’s life when you really want a photo and will do the absolutely wrong thing to get it.