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Outside » Natural World

Hey Little Smoky: Sisters latest summer visitor has caused a stir

That devil-may-care brown (black, really) bear is still hanging around Sisters, and, unless it keeps a lower profile, no good is going to come out of it.



That devil-may-care brown (black, really) bear is still hanging around Sisters, and, unless it keeps a lower profile, no good is going to come out of it. It showed up about three weeks back, poking its nose into people's backyards looking for handouts and driving the local dogs nuts. By its size and behavior, it appears to be a yearling, which in human terms makes it a teenager, and teenagers, (speaking from my time in that category) can get themselves in trouble without even trying.

The greatest fear for both the safety of man and beast is that some misinformed, well-meaning person in or around Sisters will start feeding it (as is done all too frequently with mule deer), either on purpose or unintentionally. The best thing that can happen to any bear in town is to get out of Dodge as quickly as possible.

Norma Fauni out at Indian Ford was taking out her trash a couple of weeks back, and watched a confrontation between said bear and a mule deer doe in her backyard that was more than she expected.

"The bear seemed to know that a fawn was in the immediate vicinity," Norma said, "and was apparently sniffing around for it, then momma doe rushed at the bear, who must have decided retreat was the better part of valor and climbed into a tree."

A few days later, Irene Coats, of Lower Cattle Drive (adjacent to Indian Ford) saw the bear. Her dog went nuts and that got the bear up on its hind legs, but Coats and her husband, Dale, were able to get their dog back before any fur was flying.

Perhaps it's feeding on road-killed deer or discovered a nice big bowl of dog-good on someone's back porch, says Steven George, ODFW Wildlife Biologist.

"Whatever the bear has found to eat, it's not at all a good thing that it's so close to town," George said.

Last Wednesday the bear really put on a show, when it decided to take a nap in a big Ponderosa pine in the Sisters City Park. Boy oh, boy, did that bring out the people! About a hundred or so residents and a few out-of-town cone-lickers surrounded the Sisters City Park to ogle the bear in the air. Before long there was a circus-like atmosphere, and in spite of the city employees and worried police officers roping off the area, people kept getting closer and closer, not realizing the danger they were exposing themselves to if the bear decided, "enough was enough," and came down from the tree with an attitude.

George didn't want to dart (as in tranquilize) the bear, as it was about 50 feet up in a Ponderosa pine and would probably climb higher after being darted. "I did not want a bear falling 75-plus feet, even into a net if we got lucky and put the net on the correct side of the tree," George said.

ODFW left a bear trap at the base of the tree, well baited with tasty garbage, but when the bear came down it ignored the tasty tidbits and with the help of sheriff's deputy Don Pray it was last seen headed out of Sisters. But... there are kids riding bicycles all over Indian Ford and Tollgate in addition to joggers out for early-morning and late-afternoon runs. The last thing they need is to be confronted by a hungry teenage bear.

But if that does happen, what do you do?

If you're jogging or hiking, DO NOT RUN! You can not outrun a bear. Some people claim that if you run downhill you can do it - not unless you have Prefontaine genes! The experts say the best thing to do is shout, "Hey bear! I am a human being!" and wave your arms over your head. Look big because black bears - unless there is a cub or cubs involved - will usually shy away from humans. But, most bears, like snakes and old-geezers like me, have poor eyesight and most often depend on sound and scent to identify what's in their immediate vicinity.

Back up slowly, and keep talking. Do not try to stare it down as you would a cougar, just stay aware of where the bear is, where you're going and watch for a smooth escape route. If you're on your bike, keep the bike between you and the bear and keep backing up until you have a good 50 feet between you and said bear, then get on your bike and pour on the coal.

"So far, that bear hasn't caused any problems, just a lot of curiosity" Steven George says, "so we're going to sit tight and hope it leaves town without causing any trouble."

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