the bears were getting bolder
June 1, 2018 1:32 PM   Subscribe

In the summer of 2017, the survivalists began to worry—really worry—about the bears. The problem wasn’t the animals’ nighttime behavior; that was just a nuisance. The survivalists were used to catching sight of the hulking intruders emerging from the darkened woods of rural New Hampshire to damage property, steal food, and deposit huge piles of excrement. Recently, though, the bears had started showing up in broad daylight, and not just at the survivalists’ encampment. The survivalists agreed that something had to be done to defend their makeshift home...
posted by ChuraChura (67 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's so much good stuff in this article.

Babiarz and the bear had a fundamental disagreement over how many of the farm’s livestock were there for the taking. His starting position was zero. The bear’s was all of them.

...

She learned something surprising that night: Despite their cartoonish appearance, llamas can fight like hell. They have six pronounced, razor-sharp “fighting teeth” at the front of their mouths for that purpose. In a whir of gnashing incisors and pummeling hooves, Hurricane assaulted the prone bear until it managed to pull itself away, slip through the fence, and disappear from sight. The llama snorted and stamped the ground and brayed some more—this time, Burrington was sure, with pride.

...

Doctors told Colburn that her body would heal. When she was released from the hospital, a warden from Fish and Game showed up at her house to erect a box trap in her yard. After he left, Colburn peeked at the single pink doughnut resting inside.

What a great read.
posted by figurant at 1:52 PM on June 1, 2018 [20 favorites]


People in Grafton said that, year after year, the bears were getting bolder. The same anti-authority ethos that gave rise to Tent City convinced locals that the threat needed to be dealt with, no matter what any government data said. It’s illegal to kill a bear in New Hampshire without a special hunting license, yet I heard whispers that a vigilante posse had embarked on a clandestine hunt. Meanwhile, here was Adam Franz, flinging firecrackers and pledging to use his new Judge on a moment’s notice. “This is my baby,” he said when he let me hold the firearm, placing the weight of his trust in my palm. “I fuckin’ love that thing.”

If he loves it so much, maybe he should consider loading it with "bear bangers," i.e., shells containing no shot (the firearm in question is basically a pistol that's chambered for .410 shells, if my Googling is correct). A little quicker to deploy than firecrackers, no? Especially if it's windy.

Unless the "Live Free or Die" state has a statute on the books on randomly firing off guns, blanks or no, hence the firecrackers.

Andrew Timmins told me that he’d never received a bear complaint involving a cat, from Grafton or anywhere else. Plus, the idea that wild bears could acquire a taste for felines seemed dubious to him. When a Grafton resident told me about a bear that drained his biodiesel supply—a five-gallon container of two-year-old French-fry grease—I was reminded that bears will devour even the most loathsome fare, so long as it adds to their winter stores of fat. They’re after calories, not cuisine. Despite local perception, the cats of Bungtown probably weren’t the bears’ preferred target; they were just there.

PSA: SAID RESIDENT LITERALLY LEFT OUT THE MOST AMAZING BEAR TREAT EVER.

Have you ever seen a black bear make sweet, sweet love to a barbecue in pursuit of the drippings in the grease pan? It's quite something.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:08 PM on June 1, 2018 [17 favorites]


Don't Bear On Me
posted by chavenet at 2:18 PM on June 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


I love how no one reports anything to the government, but then everyone’s all like, “that government just doesn’t know what it’s talking about! There’s totally a problem!” Well, maybe if y’all told them about it, they might know... Just saying...,
posted by Weeping_angel at 2:20 PM on June 1, 2018 [23 favorites]


I soon learned that there were four or five other families in Grafton who fed the bears, in defiance of state recommendations. Fish and Game was intolerant of such generosity: If you fed one bear, the department said, more bears will want to be fed, and once a bunch of bears get accustomed to food and its human sources, they’ll keep coming back whether you like it or not. Fish and Game recommended that, in addition to not deliberately offering bears tasty snacks, people should use airtight trash cans, keep meat scraps out of compost piles, and take down bird-feeders in early spring, when bears emerge from their dens.

But the Big Government scientists are coming to take your guns! Or something.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:24 PM on June 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


That was a pleasant, well written article. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:28 PM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


Beretta had called her boss to say that she’d be late, due to unforeseen bear.

This writing in this story is delightful.
posted by 41swans at 2:37 PM on June 1, 2018 [9 favorites]


catching sight of the hulking intruders emerging from the darkened woods of rural New Hampshire to damage property, steal food, and deposit huge piles of excrement

Turns out they don’t.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:44 PM on June 1, 2018 [57 favorites]


this was a great read! its amazing how culturally diverse the USA is. how can we really conceive of ourselves as a single nation? the attitudes of the people in this article are utterly foreign to the culture of my suburban NJ upbringing.

and yet! my parents live in far north-western NJ these days and there are...BEARS!! lots of big black bears, lazy and hungry and not terribly bothered by the presence of humans. they have their very own bear in their condo development. they never leave house or car without scanning the area. is bear at the dumpster snacking on some dirty diapers? is there a clear path from door to door? nearly every time I visit we have a bear sighting. humans aren't very good at sharing nature but bears are very good at taking advantage of our proximity.
posted by supermedusa at 2:49 PM on June 1, 2018 [9 favorites]


The survivalists agreed that something had to be done to defend their makeshift home. But no one suggested calling law enforcement.

Okay, wait, does this mean the police would have arrested the bears? If I were beset by bears, the cops would not be my first stop even though I don't live in a libertarian paradise.
posted by Frowner at 2:50 PM on June 1, 2018 [6 favorites]


I've never really asked myself this - are bears against the law?
posted by Frowner at 2:50 PM on June 1, 2018 [32 favorites]


Lack of img tag means we are denied many Yogi bear gifs.
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on June 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


I briefly corresponded with one of the world's leading experts on moose, who spent a lot of time outside. He was convinced that wolves have been getting bolder over the past couple of decades, gradually learning that humans are no longer as dangerous as the rifle- and poison-equipped pioneers who nearly hunted them to extinction.

It's plausible to me that brown bears have been coming to a similar conclusion.
posted by clawsoon at 2:52 PM on June 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


“Mr. Mayor, I hate to break it to you, but your city is infested with bears.”
“Yeah, and these ones are smarter than the average bear. They swiped my picnic basket.”

“Let the bears pay the Bear Tax! I pay the Homer Tax!”
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:52 PM on June 1, 2018 [6 favorites]


Lack of img tag means we are denied many Yogi bear gifs.

Also about three or four dozen The Far Side panels involving bears.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:53 PM on June 1, 2018 [7 favorites]


Free bears on the land. Sovereign, not consenting to restrictions, God is their authority, complaints to be directed not to the flesh and blood bear but to a corporate ursine.
posted by Palindromedary at 2:54 PM on June 1, 2018 [16 favorites]


Sounds like the small-town America I remember in the midwest, to be honest, down to the random pointless threats to the journalists' life. What awful people.
posted by TypographicalError at 2:57 PM on June 1, 2018 [17 favorites]


clawsoon, I think the fact that there are a half-dozen families in the town that feed bears is all the explanation needed. "A fed bear is a dead bear" isn't just a joke line, bears are smart and once they associate food with humans they are going to constantly invade human spaces.
posted by tavella at 2:58 PM on June 1, 2018 [21 favorites]


It's plausible to me that brown bears have been coming to a similar conclusion.

If they’re in New Hampshire, they’re awfully bold for brown bears. New Hampshire is a couple thousand miles out of their range.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:59 PM on June 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


Whoops, fair point Sys Rq. :-)
posted by clawsoon at 3:02 PM on June 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Suggested soundtrack
posted by doctornemo at 3:06 PM on June 1, 2018


We live near New Hampshire, up on the Green Mountains, and frequently encounter bears.

Seeing one charge across your road in broad daylight is certainly a fine way to become alert.

We've had bears wander across our land many times. Once a bear lumbered towards our main chicken coop. Dog and I scared it away - the beast shambled away, almost visibly expressing apologies. Same dog loved chasing off bears, on our land, across the street, wherever.
She had a bad habit of treeing bear cubs. Silly doggie.

(Now off to RTFA)
posted by doctornemo at 3:08 PM on June 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


Suggested soundtrack

And/or:

Ol' Slew Foot done made himself at home...
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:10 PM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's plausible to me that brown bears have been coming to a similar conclusion.

The bears in the story are black bears.
posted by zarq at 3:16 PM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well maybe the brown bears are telling the black bears, using trash can signals to pass the information across the continent.
posted by clawsoon at 3:20 PM on June 1, 2018 [23 favorites]


Wondering if free thinkers are familiar with the term “ attractive nuisance” or if they just think the bears have it in for them, like the government, and any other negative thing that non-insane people might put down to cause and effect.
posted by Artw at 3:20 PM on June 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


Well maybe the brown bears are telling the black bears, using trash can signals to pass the information across the continent.

Trashtalking bears?
posted by zarq at 3:24 PM on June 1, 2018 [9 favorites]


I bet the raccoons are in on it.
posted by Artw at 3:25 PM on June 1, 2018 [9 favorites]


You can imagine how much a story gets distorted once a bunch of raccoons are done with it.
posted by clawsoon at 3:29 PM on June 1, 2018 [13 favorites]


So many nice passages:
a bear got clawsy with Soule’s kittens...

[H]er small porch, eight by ten feet, was “just full of bear.”

The bear caromed back at an angle...

The new forest had a strange, ominous flavor. In 1938, a hurricane breached the fences of Corbin’s reserve, releasing hundreds of animals into the wild, and Grafton residents described frequent encounters with the creatures’ startling descendants. Packs of coyote-wolf hybrids, once unheard of in the area, trailed people who were out walking their dogs. There were taller tales, too, of a Bigfoot-like creature, dragonflies as big as hawks, and birds with claw prints larger than a human hand.

posted by doctornemo at 3:39 PM on June 1, 2018 [6 favorites]


Okay, wait, does this mean the police would have arrested the bears? If I were beset by bears, the cops would not be my first stop even though I don't live in a libertarian paradise.

As someone who lives in what libertarians tend to call a Socialist State of Denial, I can tell you from (then-noob) experience that the cops will laugh at you when you call 911 to report a 400 lb bear minding its own business, which is pretty much anything not actually breaking into your house or assaulting you.
posted by RedEmma at 3:42 PM on June 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


Okay, wait, does this mean the police would have arrested the bears? If I were beset by bears, the cops would not be my first stop even though I don't live in a libertarian paradise.

Jokes aside, most places in the US have “game cops,” department of wildlife (aka natural resources, fish and game, etc depending on location) employees who deal with problem bears, among many other tasks.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:48 PM on June 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's their bad history with game cops that has made so many of them libeartarians.
posted by clawsoon at 3:53 PM on June 1, 2018 [26 favorites]


(I can't believe I'm the first one to make a libeartarian joke in this thread.)
posted by clawsoon at 3:53 PM on June 1, 2018 [15 favorites]


As someone who lives in what libertarians tend to call a Socialist State of Denial, I can tell you from (then-noob) experience that the cops will laugh at you when you call 911 to report a 400 lb bear minding its own business, which is pretty much anything not actually breaking into your house or assaulting you.

My inlaws live in what could be charitably described as a Very Bear-Infested small town surrounded by bush. Kinda like this.

The last time my mother-in-law went out to her car only to discover a black bear between the car and her, she just went inside and waited it out.

Last summer, though, they had a lot of nuisance bears, and the local constabulary had to put out a plea to the some of the locals to please kindly not go busting caps at random bears, and to call them instead to come have a look see.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:53 PM on June 1, 2018 [4 favorites]




The edicts and regulations didn’t sit well in Grafton, particularly with the town’s newest colonists, who started showing up in 2004. It sounds like the start of a bad joke: A lawyer, a firearms instructor, and the owner of a mail-order-bride business walk into a fire station. The three men were Tim Condon, Tony Lekas, and Larry Pendarvis, respectively, and they were avowed libertarians with the Free Town Project, a splinter group of a national initiative founded in 2001 to convince some 20,000 liberty-loving Americans to move to a chosen place, where they could concentrate their voting power and rid the political landscape of pesky rules. On the anything-goes frontier that Free Towners envisioned, people would be able to keep as many junk cars on their property as they wished, buy and sell sex without shame, gamble at will, consume drugs of all kinds, and educate their kids however they liked. Hell, they could even debate the merits of incest and cannibalism if they wanted.

Ah, yes. Just winding up Wild Wild Country.
posted by mwhybark at 4:41 PM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


A very entertaining read, which led me to one conclusion. I'd rather cross paths with a black bear than a libertarian.
posted by bawanaal at 4:56 PM on June 1, 2018 [18 favorites]


Tracey Colburn lived in a little yellow house in the middle of the woods.

Oh my god, this line just killed me. Like the start of a folktale. This story is tremendously well written.
posted by mwhybark at 5:13 PM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


Free Town is the future of America.
posted by benzenedream at 5:36 PM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


Another resident said he knew about the vigilante hunt and opposed it, but would never have put up any resistance. “It’s like being a German in Nazi Germany and not wanting to kill the Jews,” he said. “You hear about it, and you know it’s happening, but you just don’t want to think about it.”
Awful people indeed.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:44 PM on June 1, 2018 [9 favorites]


So long as the headline isn’t “Bears Discover Fire,” I’ll refrain from panicking.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 5:52 PM on June 1, 2018 [7 favorites]


A friend of mine in college was a far-left libertarian (so far he actually fell off the libertarian edge of the spectrum and into full-blown anarchosyndicalism) and was really into this Free Town New Hampshire thing, which was just becoming a Thing on Libertarian Internet at the time. I find it highly amusing that all of his extremely rational-seeming, erudite, but ultimately incoherent arguments are finally being refuted by bears.
posted by biogeo at 7:08 PM on June 1, 2018 [14 favorites]


I have a real hard time not telling little old ladies who do things like feed fucking bears that they are stupid assholes, but they are stupid assholes. It's not charity, it's not good for the bears, it's about wanting to feel like a beneficent goddess no matter how many problems it creates.

I feel the same way about feral cat, squirrel, and raccoon feeders, but people get mad when you say it.
posted by emjaybee at 8:36 PM on June 1, 2018 [17 favorites]


In Alaska, strict local laws (with monetary fines) mandating bear-proof trash cans and dumpsters (they learn how to open dumpster lids) and otherwise against leaving food/garbage anywhere available to bears — works. Doughnut Lady would have been shut down very quickly here.
posted by D.C. at 8:51 PM on June 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


Gee, you have dozens of people feeding the bears and you wonder why they're coming around to your house looking for easy food.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 9:07 PM on June 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


"Okay, wait, does this mean the police would have arrested the bears? If I were beset by bears, the cops would not be my first stop even though I don't live in a libertarian paradise."

If you live in an area that is typically un-beared and there is a bear wandering around, your best bet actually is to call the cops (or 911 anyway) who will be able to much more quickly get through to your local Department of Natural Resources for the Nature Cops/Game Wardens to come out and handle it. They can also activate the community notification system to say "bear wandering around Fourth Avenue, bring all pets and children indoors."

Source: black bears occasionally wandering in to Durham, NC, when there's slim pickins in their usual foraging grounds. Also in Peoria, where people call the cops for cougar sightings and the police put them through to DNR and DNR gets all the info. Not that many people know how to call DNR directly and then there's like an annoying phone tree (Press 1 if you have questions about our beautiful state parks!) that the cops get to bypass when they put you through to the wildlife officers.

If they are a common problem animal where you are, you need to know the number for the Nature Cops and not bother the people cops with every bear sighting. Like these folks living in bear territory should have known to call Fish & Game directly.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:40 PM on June 1, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'm a bit disappointed that nobody has linked to this.
posted by e-man at 10:12 PM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


If they are a common problem animal where you are, you need to know the number for the Nature Cops and not bother the people cops with every bear sighting. Like these folks living in bear territory should have known to call Fish & Game directly.

Yes, but while they have reluctantly accepted the necessity of local cops, asking for help from the state government would corrode their very souls.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:32 AM on June 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


That right to bear arms is a doozy.
posted by BeeDo at 12:58 AM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Bears scare me in a way that big cats don’t . My sister was your basic vegetarian, liberal pacifist type. Then she married an Alaskan bush pilot. Of course they live in bear country. Once you live in bear country things change. For one thing she’s learned to like firearms.
Idiots who feed bears and other wild animals piss me off. Bears are a lot better off not eating our junk food. We are a lot better off too. Nearly every instance of ‘problem animals’ is human caused.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:35 AM on June 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


All was well until 1999. That’s when the cat massacre happened.

Yikes. This was just a great read. thanks!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:06 AM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


In Western NC, where there are many many black bears, the problem of human-bear issues has been basically solved by people following the rules: no bird feeders, no compost piles, no outdoor pet food, bear proof trash cans only, or even better don't put your trash out until trash day. We still encounter bears from time to time, mostly in the woods where they are doing bear things, occasionally wandering through town where the older bears are looking for human rule breakers.

Of course, in this article, the problem is a bunch of libertarians who don't believe in rules and just want to shoot bears.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:47 AM on June 2, 2018 [11 favorites]


Tracey Colburn lived in a little yellow house in the middle of the woods.

Oh my god, this line just killed me. Like the start of a folktale...


Come visit us in Vermont, mwhybark . This is how we talk about 1/2 of the state.
posted by doctornemo at 6:56 AM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Of course, in this article, the problem is a bunch of libertarians who don't believe in rules and just want to shoot bears.

Well, also that they don’t believe in cause and effect, so they in no way believe their leaving food out all the time could have anything to do with all these bears turning up.
posted by Artw at 7:04 AM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


My first thought while reading the article was that the bears there must not get much hunting pressure, because usually bears that face hunting will avoid people -- they are smart animals, as the article discusses.

But checking the state Fish and Game website, hunters are killing almost 1 in 6 bears in the state yearly. There's plenty of hunting pressure; the problem seems pretty clearly that people are feeding them (both directly, like the doughnut lady, and indirectly, via trash and compost piles) so the bears, who aren't stupid, have learned to hang around houses. The people are the problem, not the bears.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:16 AM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


In fairness it does seem like Fish & Game is doing the bear minimum.
posted by freecellwizard at 8:50 AM on June 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


Another thing that stood out to me was when they were going to go kill the denned bears and were asking the landowner for permission. Why even mention you're going bear hunting. There are tons of other reasons to ask for permission that wouldn't lead a savvy cop to conclude you were poaching so easily.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 10:07 AM on June 2, 2018


There are tons of other reasons to ask for permission that wouldn't lead a savvy cop to conclude you were poaching so easily.

The flurry of small arms fire would probably give the game away. Best to talk to the owner first so she doesn't call the cops about it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:12 AM on June 2, 2018


Why even mention you're going bear hunting. There are tons of other reasons to ask for permission that wouldn't lead a savvy cop to conclude you were poaching so easily.

They need the landowner to not call the game cops. As long as the landowner is willing to turn a blind eye and they stay on private land, they are probably free and clear.

The traditional mantra for DIY animal control, especially of listed or managed species, is "shoot, shovel, and shut up." The people discussed in the article managed the first two steps ok, but failed at the key item of shutting up. If the article is correct and they were in fact poaching illegally, I hope some of them end up facing serious consequences.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:05 PM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


> black bears occasionally wandering in to Durham, NC, when there's slim pickins in their usual foraging grounds.

In Durham currently we haven't had much in the way of bear problems, but there have been wolf sightings and this year a much larger than usual proliferation of copperhead snakes, which have been leaving their usual woodsy haunts and sunning themselves on greenways and sidewalks. One was partially crushed by a truck near my house a couple days ago.

911 is the usual go-to line for reporting wildlife that's in places it shouldn't be where it might be putting people in danger. Between the dispatcher and the police, somebody will be able to decide who takes care of it.
posted by ardgedee at 1:17 PM on June 2, 2018


> That right to bear arms is a doozy.


It’s the right to arm bears that’ll get you.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:09 PM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


After 80 years of rattle snake roundups, rattlesnakes no longer rattle as fair warning. . .
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:10 PM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


After 80 years of rattle snake roundups, rattlesnakes no longer rattle as fair warning. . .

Interesting!

Although:
he believes it's a genetic issue that multiplies because those snakes that can rattle usually end up being killed. But others think the situation could be an evolutionary development to avoid detection.
Aren't those two sentences describing the same thing? "He thinks it's natural selection favouring a mutation, but others think it's natural selection favouring a mutation."
posted by clawsoon at 3:10 AM on June 3, 2018 [10 favorites]


Fantastic article!
posted by ellieBOA at 9:38 AM on June 3, 2018


Joining the chorus of "very well-written." Complete with the thematic integrity of the coda.
posted by seyirci at 2:30 PM on June 4, 2018


"the survivalists began to worry" seems a given; my brain just locked up in irony before getting through the first sentence here.
posted by talldean at 8:23 AM on June 7, 2018


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