Don Corey is used to seeing wildlife around his rural Holden home — also the home of his business, the Annika Rod and Fly Learning Center.
He has seen porcupines, raccoons, wild turkeys and other varied small critters over the years.
A recent visitor, however, was quite a bit bigger than most … and hungrier … and more destructive.
Corey, who also works as the director of information services here at the BDN, explained that in late April, he noticed that a backyard bird feeder was no longer there.
“We have a bird feeder with a one-inch steel pipe that’s buried in a five-gallon bucket of concrete, in the ground, and he pulled that over and laid it down and carried the bird feeder off,” Corey said. “That was the start of things, and we knew that we had more than gray squirrels [around].”
After finding large piles of … well … evidence on his lawn, Corey figured that a bear had been the culprit.
Corey found the top of the feeder about 40 yards away, reattached it to the post, and formulated a plan. An important note: Although he put the bird feeder back up, he did not fill it with seed again, in order to avoid giving the bear a real reason to return. He did figure, however, that the bear would be curious enough to revisit the spot it had previously found food. If he did, Corey would be ready.
“I borrowed a trail camera from my brother-in-law, [Bruce Dowling], and set that up to see if maybe if he did come back, we could get a little snapshot of [the intruder],” Corey said. “The night we set that up, it was raining, and I saw the flash go off when we were watching TV. The feeder is 10, 12 feet from our living room. I saw the flash of the camera but I figured that it was the rain [triggering the sensor].”
That incident took place on April 26.
On May 8, Corey loaded 15 photos from the camera onto his computer to take a look. He saw photos of his daughter, who had walked within camera range one day. He saw photos of nothing. Then he saw a picture that caught his attention.
“There were five or six pictures that were all dark, and they all looked exactly the same,” Corey said. “Then I saw a little shine in one of them and paid more attention to that.”
Corey sent the photo to Dowling, who has experience with digital photography. Dowling tinkered with the dark image a bit, and Corey’s suspicion was confirmed: The shine was the reflection of the flash off an eye. The culprit was a bear … and it had come back.
“That feeder’s probably, right now, at least five feet off the ground, five and a half feet, and that seems to be where his nose is in the picture, so I would say that he’s roughly five and a half feet tall,” Corey said.
State wildlife officials have long advised rural residents to avoid giving bears a reason to visit their homes. Bird feeders, trash cans, and other food sources are often attractive to bears looking for a free lunch.
Corey believes that advice is sound: His neighbor also had a visit from the bruin, he said; the bear took a bite out of a trash can lid.
“At first it’s kind of cool to think that it’s a bear [that’s right outside your house], but then it’s kind of scary to think that 10, 12 feet away, he’s munching away, looking for food,” Corey said.