Living within 10 feet of protected wetland forest means a narrow boundary between my yard and the wildlife. Visitors to my back deck see my territory as an extension of theirs. This ranges from woodpeckers to raccoons to larger predators. Some wanted. Some not.
Coyotes: we hear these guys more than we see them. They sing whenever emergency sirens erupt on the highway ½ mile away. This happens most afternoons about 4 when the skiers descend from the mountain. For coyotes, cat for lunch is a gourmet treat. The idiot flatlanders who dump unwanted cats and kittens thinking they are doing their pets a favor forget that survival rate is less than 10%.
Cougars: not so much. In the 14 years we’ve been on the mountain cougar sightings fall into the region of Urban Legend. Or should that be rural legend? Anyway, it is always someone’s uncle’s cousin’s nephew’s brother-in-law who spotted the beast. The closest we’ve come is our next door neighbor saw cougar sign (long, deep scratches in tree bark) when he was helping clear a lot for a developer.
Bears: Oh yes the bears. We have bears. The American Black Bear (Euarctos americanus) to be precise. Ever heard the joke: Do bears [email protected]$&* in the woods? No they do it in my back yard, my front yard, and on the dirt road I walk for meditation. There is a point to this statement. Please be patient and read further.
These not-so-cuddly critters range in color from black to light reddish blond or cinnamon. They love sunflower seeds and very neatly clean up the entire deck of full seeds and the hulls left over from more picky squirrels and birds. They have an almost prehensile tongue to facilitate this, and usually are quite polite. Unless the supply is diminished and they are hungry. We’ve lost a dozen or more hanging bird feeders to them.
The bears wander out of hibernation around mid April, hungry, lean, and aggressive, especially mamas with new cubs to feed. They visit less frequently in summer when they are fishing in the 3 nearby rivers for salmon. Then in October and November they feed 23 hours a day. No garbage can is safe. We lock ours in the shed and then set the alarm for 6 AM to put it out on Thursday mornings. Then we stand guard with pot lids for banging and hoses primed for squirting for the hour or so until the truck comes.
Another predator I should add to my list of living with wildlife is my Lilac Point Siamese Cat. We’re on our second since moving in. Siamese are more territorial than the bears. That deck belongs to them and the bears have no right to visit. (The fact that they have both been indoor cats–see coyote reference above–makes no difference.)
One spring we had a mama bear with twin cubs. We set out two trays of seed on the deck. Mama came around and instructed each cub as to which tray they could eat from, then admonished them to stay put while she finished raiding a different stash of seeds next door. The cubs obediently ate their dinner then wrestled and played in the yard until mama came for them. Then they disappeared into the woods on their nightly foray.
Lilac, the cat, took exception to their presence. The second night they appeared she hit the glass doors at 6 ft up with all claws extended. The startled cubs jumped up so quickly they did backward summersaults off the back of the deck and run up the 100 ft high Douglas Fir. They repeated this performance all summer long.
The next summer one of those cubs returned as a 150 lb juvenile. Lilac hit the glass doors. The bear tumbled off the deck and ran up the tree.
Another year passed. The 300 lb adult bear came to feed on the deck. You guessed it. The cat scared the sh#@@ out of it. Literally. A pile nearly a foot high, probably weighing more than the cat did. It hid in the fir tree for almost an hour before scuttling into the deep woods for safety.
Bears might be the apex predator in this part of world, but they are afraid of 7 lb Siamese cats. I’d pit that cat against a coyote any day.