Steeves: Wildlife taking refuge in columnist’s garden

While tapping away at the keyboard on the desk in my home office around daybreak Thursday I was startled by a sudden sound in the yard on the other side of the window from me.

While tapping away at the keyboard on the desk in my home office around daybreak Thursday I was startled by a sudden sound in the yard on the other side of the window from me.

A board had been knocked off a bench in the garden, adjacent to a large, mature Douglas fir tree, and there was a very dark shadow on one side of it.

As I moved to grab my camera, it moved too, showing me the clear form of a glistening dark black bear standing on two legs, at least two feet higher than my six-foot board fence, heading either up or down the tree.

As I moved to get closer to the window with my camera, it glared at me and turned, scrambling nimbly over that high fence and down the road.

Once my heart had calmed down, I braved the pouring rain and went and had a look at the damage.

For some reason, he’d obviously been up the large ponderosa pine as well. There were dead limbs littering the ground around the tree, along with chunks of bark his claws had loosened in his rush up the tree.

It took me a few minutes, but then it occurred to me why he’d been climbing trees. I know they climb when they’re in a panic, not just to search out bird’s nests, and that’s what had happened to him.

We installed a Contech Scarecrow motion-activated sprinkler this spring to protect at least the one garden from the deer.

Well, apparently it works on bears as well.

I’m thinking pre-dawn, this guy started to amble through our yard, feeling safe and comfortable at being sheltered by lots of big trees—until that first spray of water hit him smack in the nose.

Poor fellow. I might have climbed the nearest tree too.

I have a feeling he won’t be back anytime soon.

But, we went for a little drive off the paved roads on Sunday and now I think I know why local wildlife keep taking refuge in my garden.

There were people walking, cycling, motor-biking, atving, driving jeeps and trucks and sedans and big motorhomes and sleeping in tents, trailers, campers and class A motorhomes all over the place on the long weekend out in the forest. The bush was alive with them.

There were groups—large groups—of campers amongst the trees all along the gravel road we were on, and they were eating and drinking and riding and driving and hiking and listening to music.

People were everywhere, having fun.

Which, of course, means no self-respecting wildlife was anywhere near.

They’d all headed down to Judie’s yard for a bit of R ’n R, and to chew on the first new growth on her last remaining roses.

Hopefully, now that the long weekend is over, all those tents and other shelters that sprang up like mushrooms after a spring rain are gone from the bush, and hopefully, no evidence of their partying was left behind.

But, I have to wonder just what the “carrying capacity” of such lower-elevation forested areas is for such an influx of humans and their sometimes-devastating activities.

Wherever there’s an official campground, wildlife habits change with their proximity to people, despite all efforts there to keep the impacts contained, and to a minimum.

But away from such prepared camping spots, with no washrooms or washing facilities; and no gravelled campsites, prepared firepits and pathways to protect some of the natural growth, the damage to the natural environment can be pretty brutal from such an busy weekend of human activities.

In one sense, it’s great to see so much interest in the natural environment and interacting with nature; but in another, I have grave concerns about how much is too much.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

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