Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Monday, August 8, 2016

...and a Black Bear in a Pear Tree

It happened again, another visit by ursus americanus, better known as the black bear.

This now marks the fourth time I have looked out the kitchen window to discover major damage that could've only been caused by a 200- to 500-pound bear.

Once again, the reason was food.
Pear tree branches down, Aug. 5, 2016 (Margo D. Beller)
Ever since the first attack, either in the late hours of March 26 or the early hours of March 27, 2015, I have been taking bird feeders inside at night, even in the middle of winter when bears should be in dens. I don't put feeders out in summer until August, when I put out a thistle sock for the goldfinches. I take that in at night, too.

That's not what the bear wanted.

What was damaged this time was not a feeder pole but the pear tree just beyond our enclosed porch, on which I hang several water dishes. It has only been in the last several years, when I hadn't cut back some of the longer branches myself or hired someone else to do it, that the tree has flowered in the spring. Flowers mean fruit is coming. Many years the squirrels grab the pears.

This year I found only three pears. One blew down when we had a horrific, non-hurricane thunderstorm (similar to the one that took our power last week). I forgot about the other two.

So when I found the two side trunks cracked and bent over, I realized the bear - for what else could it have been? - had tried to climb up to the remaining pears but had hit the ground when the branches gave way. For whatever reason, it didn't try again, thank goodness, and didn't leave any indentations or "calling cards" for us to find, as happened about 20 years ago when we had more apple trees and woke one morning to find a big branch down on one of them and said indentation and calling card below it. (The tree was one of those removed years ago, replaced with a garden containing ornamental grasses and plants not usually eaten by deer.)

I knocked down the two pears. One was already way past the point where it should've been picked. Here is the other one, which we'll eat at some point.
What the bear was after (Margo D. Beller)

One of the water dishes was still hanging in one of the broken hunks of tree. I estimate 1/3 of the tree had to be sawed off, which was unfortunate because I put in feeder poles based on where the tree is located. The poles are too far away for squirrels to jump to the feeders from the tree while allowing the birds a place to safely eat their seeds or enjoy a drink of water.

Making it worse, this was the same tree I had cut back from the top a few weeks ago, MH manfully holding the ladder against the house as I went up with my lopper to take down branches that were overhanging the enclosed porch and being used as a highway for chipmunks and squirrels.

So having cut off so much, why shouldn't I go out today, a hot and humid albeit cloudy day when I had nothing better to do, and cut off more hunks of this same tree to get the remaining upper branches? I didn't mean to take off hunks, I was merely bending down the branch to cut it better from the ground and the whole thing snapped.

The water dish had to be moved. (Margo D. Beller)

Apparently, pear trees are quite brittle. They can also grow 40 feet high. I did not plant this tree, just as I did not plant the apple trees that I had to cut down because I couldn't keep up with all the fruit on the ground that brought deer and their mess to my yard. Aside from the pear, only one apple tree remains, and thank goodness there was not much fruit this year or the bear might have caused more damage.

If the pear tree survives the summer and winter to bloom in the spring, I'll be amazed. If it goes, the replacement will be a non-fruit tree. As long as the birds get their shelter and water, they'll be fine.

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