Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Hunting Bears

 Over the last several years I've read quite a bit about numerous wild animal species making comebacks in population or starting to appear in areas that they previously were though to be gone from.  Not necessarily extinct but just far removed from those original areas.  This is all good news to me.  I'm happy to see many wild animals growing in population.  I know when I was a kid we never saw deer around the area I grew up.  That was something that existed far, far away in other parts of Alabama.  Now, when I go down in the pastures when I visit Mama, deer trails and tracks are a dime a dozen.  Unfortunately, coyotes have come with them, but so far they tend to stay far away from houses.  Fox are common now, as are ground hogs and various hawks and other wild fowl.
Knowing all this did not prepare me for what I recently found in my driveway though.  A couple of weeks ago, on my daily trek to the mailbox, I spied some very large and very deep claw marks right in the drive, which is hard-packed chert and gravel.  I came back and took several photos, as you see below.  At first I thought, it must just be a very large dog.  But after measuring them....I thought, that'd have to be one big ass dog.  There were four claw marks with the outer ones being a good 4 inches apart and about 1 1/2" between each claw.  That's just the claws, you see.  The paw would be even larger.

 There were actually several marks but this was the one most clearly defined.  The scratch was over 2 feet in length also and, as I mentioned, in some very hard gravel and dirt.. We had not had much rain in a while when this was done and the ground was just baked.  In fact, we have had several very heavy rains since I took these photos and some of the marks are still slightly visible, they were so deep.

 I suspected it was a black bear but figured everyone would think I was nutty.  I mean, Alabama does have black bears.  They travel quite frequently through our state on their way to and from the Smokies and Florida.  But they normally stay over on the east side of the state because they can make a great deal of the trip within the confines of the Talledega National Forest.  It's a little unusual to see them over this way.

 Then, I found this tuft of hair not far from the claw marks a few days later.  It's very matted and coarse.  I suppose it could very well be dog hair but it just didn't seem like it.  So.  I got all my stuff together and paid a visit to our local county extension officer.  He's real nice and likes to chat so we dropped in his office and I showed him all my evidence.  To be honest, I expected him to laugh at me.  But...he looked over everything and said, 'Yep, looks like you have a bear!'  I wanted to not be thought a nut but I also didn't want to know I had a bear on my land!  Mainly it scared me for my chickens and for Chigger.  I don't think she's courageous enough to go after a bear, by any means, but I encouraged her to stay up by the house as much as possible and made sure the girls were locked up way before dark.  The county guy said he figured the bear had well moved on by now; that it was probably just passing through, but I wasn't so sure.  I haven't seen any signs of anything lately though, so hopefully he's right! 

In other rare sightings, I actually won 2 prizes at the art show that I was recently accepted into!  I got 2nd for the metal sculpture I showed ya'll a few posts back and got an Honorable Mention for another small sculpture.  I won a little money with that too, so that was nice!  I was very happy and grateful to finally have some success.  At the end of the reception, the judge (a professor from the U of A in Huntsville) made a point to stop me to talk and compliment me on all my work.  He claimed to be very impressed with the welding, which I thought was kinda humorous.  However, he did understand that it's a bit tricky to weld cast iron to mild steel and he appreciated my efforts.  Of course, I told him who my professor was that taught me how to weld and he understood then.  Where I went to school, craftsmanship was of great importance, as it should be.  Didn't matter how great of an artistic concept, if it looked like shit then it was shit in their eyes.  "The craftsmanship should always be appropriate to the piece".  I might as well as had that tattooed on my forehead as often as we were told in school! They weren't kidding either.  If you couldn't muster the craft of building things (or painting etc), there was none of this, "oh, it's the concept of the piece blah, blah, blah." They would tell you to get your shit and get out of their class.
At any rate, from this show I was also offered two other opportunities to exhibit my art and I am very excited about that.  I'll tell ya'll about that in a later post.


JO said...

The bear thing can be a little creepy when you haven't had any before. Lets hope he has moved on.

Congrats on your pieces. Thats wonderful.

ErinFromIowa said...

Bears are exciting. Winning prizes at art shows is even more exciting!

Hermit's Baby Sis said...

Ditto to Erin! I like to see bears - on video, movies, etc. On my driveway? Not so much!
And many good wishes for your art and future exhibits - love what you do, and you'll never work a day in your life. Now if it could generate a little more income, that would be SUPER!

Nice pics, as usual, but good to see you ...

ErinFromIowa said...

I forgot! Your beauty shines thru in this photo. :) <3

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I think, for that tidbit of information. Garbage runs in the dark of night are now a different matter! Your Backwoods Neighbor.

MamaHen said...

Hey Jo! thank you! yes, bears are definitely on my creepy list. Not something I want to encounter.

Hey Erin! Yes, it is!! I was very excited! and thank you for the sweet compliment. I was happy to have taken a photo for once, where I did not look drugged or very angry. ha!

Hey sis! yes, in movies and such is fine; in real thank you! haha! thank you and I'm hoping with more exhibits will come more income! It takes a good while to get rolling in the art world but you can make a living at it. In the meantime, my welding jobs around here have picked up quite a bit so I'm picking up a little more that way.

Hey Neighbor! Yeah, I used to like to go for long walks down the driveway late at night....not anymore! not for a while at least! haha! I told Shannon, that lives over your way, about the bear also so they can kinda keep an eye out. I don't think they have any livestock that might be affected though.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!! on your awards!! You look lovely and at peace in this photo.
Alabama is a diverse place, so I suspect you have far more critters than you realize in your neck of the woods.
Learning to weld in on my to do list, for art work. Not sure it will happen but I know it would come in handy from time to time for repairs.

tammy from LA

MamaHen said...

Hey Tammy!! thank you so much! It was a very nice day and we had an enjoyable time.
Oh, I've always known there are lots of unseen critters around here; was just a bit surprised to actually see evidence of a bear in this particular area though. I thought they mostly stayed over to the east side. When I was very young my sister and I had gone down to the barn after dark to feed the dogs there and we heard a panther scream not too far away. There was no "what was that?"; it was an unmistakable sound. I don't believe either of us had ever before or since run so fast back to the house.! So, I know those are still around too...
You should most definitely learn to weld. It's helpful in more ways than you can imagine.

Anonymous said...

Whoa... I'd be excited about the bear, I love my wildlife, but yeah, long walks down the driveway in the dark? Probably not. Ha!

Congratulations on the 2nd prize ribbon!! So glad you got the recognition you deserve! I love your work.
And as someone else mentioned, you look beautiful and at peace. I sure hope you're feeling better these days.


MamaHen said...

Hey Vonne! Yeah, I haven't seen anything bear-like lately but I'm still a bit skiddish! lol!

And thank you! Not sure about the "at peace" part (ha!) but I appreciate the sweet compliments. I'm still struggling with health issues but some days I feel not too bad.

molly said...

OMG, the thought of a bear around would terrify me, thank god we don't have them in Aussie!! Congrats on the award too, well done :)

Practical Parsimony said...

There are coyotes yipping across the street right across from me. I am really near woods. If there are bears out there, I hope they don't come near my house! Congratulations on the prize.

MamaHen said...

Hey Molly! thanks! and yeah, the thought of a bear around does not sit well with me!

Hey Linda! thanks! the coyotes are just everywhere now days. fortunately I have not heard them around here lately. They sometimes come very close to the house.