I sat on the tailgate of Ed Gulley’s truck, the bear’s head all but in my lap. I had never seen a bear outside of a zoo. His tongue hung out of the side of his mouth, his gums pale with death, his eyes closed.
I touched the bear’s head with reverence. His fur was blacker than I would have thought, it was thick and soft, it glistened. It was the fur of a young and healthy animal.
The whole thing took about two hours. From the time we heard the loud thump of the truck hitting the bear in front of our house, to Ed Gulley driving home with him in the back of his pick-up.
I couldn’t watch as the wounded bear climbed over our fence into our south pasture, dragging at least one broken leg, no doubt trying to get back to the woods. He disappeared in the tall grasses, but Jon and Ed kept watch as he settled down to die.
Jon called the police and we stood behind the fence as the sheriff got close enough to see that the bear was still alive. While we waited for someone from Encon to show up, Chloe ran the fence, ears up and snorting. The donkeys and sheep were alert, watching, but staying close to the pole barn.
They must know each other I thought. This isn’t the first time the bear has made this trip along our fence line, although most likely always on the other side. This is a well traveled route for many animals. Their place to cross the road.
Maybe when Lulu stands at attention, her ears up, it’s not a deer that she’s sensing, but a bear. Hidden in the tall grasses and reeds, like spider webs in the woods, that you only see when the sun shines on them.
And like the crows, the bear must know me and Jon too.
So as he lay in the back of Ed’s truck it felt like the right thing to do to get to know him as best I could. To acknowledge that he existed and that his life is now gone.
It’s a helpless feeling to see a 200 pound wounded bear limping across the pasture. I wanted to go to him, hold him and comfort him. Let him know that soon the pain would be gone. Bears look that way from a safe distance, big and soft and cuddly. Their strength, teeth and claws hidden in their stuffed animal-looking softness.
I couldn’t do it while he was still alive, but safely dead, I smoothed the fur around his head. Rubbed his ears like I would Chloe’s. I held his giant paws in my hand. Touched the surprisingly soft pads on the bottom of his feet. His claws, hard, thick and slippery like teeth.
I didn’t have any words, I spoke with my hands.
When the Encon Officer shot him, the bear let out a cry that traveled from my heart to my gut. Ed said it was called a death howl. It’s one of those sounds that transcends species, time and place. My eyes immediately got heavy with tears. It was impossible not to feel.
Back in the house, after everyone was gone, and Jon was blogging, I read what I could find about black bears. How and where they live and die, what they have come to mean to humans, in our lives and symbolically. It was another way for me to get to know the bear.
It seemed a small miracle that Ed was at our house when this all happened. That he was there to take the bear home to skin and get what meat he could from him. That something would come of his death.
And now I wonder if this is the same bear whose scat I’ve been seeing in the woods. That our paths have crossed already more than once. That I knew him better than I thought.
20 thoughts on “The Bear In the Woods and On The Farm”
Oh Maria, this is so skillfully written that I am sitting on the tailgate with you watching you and crying.
I read Jons account of the bear yesterday and last night I woke up in the night thinking about the poor wounded bear…I realized I was crying and mourning the death of this bear. I am so glad that he didn’t suffer too long although suffering for any amount of time is horrible to think about. I really enjoyed your blog above also and wanted to let you know I really felt what you felt and I imagine that was the scat you came across in the woods…Hugs Maria!
That is beautiful Maria. Good to know the skin and meat will be utilized and not wasted. Thank you for taking the time to honor the bear’s existence:-)
Oh Maria, with tears in my eyes, my heart goes out to you and the bear. The circle of life. but no easier to bear.
Peace to you. . . .
How very sad, Maria. Thank you for honoring this bear and his life. My heart goes out to him. I’m thankful you and Jon were his witnesses.
Thank you for sharing this with us. You write about it so beautifully…..
Maria, you honoured the animal and its existence. I’ve felt the same way putting down one of our dogs. It’s enough to tear my heart out watching this happen but I hold them, the vets asks, ‘are you ready’? I’m never ready to let an animal go that I’ve loved and cared for but there is a time and when that time comes, it is better to release it. Reading Jon’s accounting of the family watching and making their voices heard left me feeling the frustration of knowing that our rural and urban lives are becoming so separated, separated by the inexperience of knowing and living with animals, separated by civilization now so citified that they have no idea what it is to be like to be quiet without the background noise of cars honking, traffic humming, sirens wailing that they don’t hear the lack of noise that happens in the country. People have become disconnected from the reality of wildlife and that to put the bear out of his misery was a kindness, for he could have gone into the bush and died an agonizingly slow death. But to shout in anger at the process of allowing that bear not to suffer any longer, leaves me angry at the ignorance of some people whose misplaced sense of justice is so detached from reality that I fear for where human beings are heading, into an oblivion of misguided thinking, self-justification in their ignorance of life. What happened was a reality of life that many people simply don’t see or know it exists.
SandyP in S.Ont.,Can.
Maria, Jon is right you are enchanted. Your love and care for animals is astonishing. I love them too and live with 29 of them but you are one with them in a way I can’t quite reach. I challenge you to write about them. It would be different than Jon’s writing but equally poignant.
Such a heartfelt moment with the bear. I can feel your pain, and the bear’s pain. The bear is at peace now. Did you take a photo of his paw?
I didn’t take any photos Teresa. But Ed took has a photo of his paw on his blog Bejosh Farm Journal. Here’s a link to his post. His wife Carol also wrote beautifully about her part of the experience.
that is so terribly sad but beautifully written
made tears come to my eyes too
Thank you so much for posting this……with tears I can feel for him as you did,
I totally understand the connection between the animals and us. I live in central Texas on 5 acres. We have abundant white tail deer, fox, raccoons, possums, skunks, Hawks, owls, snakes etc….. We get to know the deer, generation after generation. They are part of us. When any are hurt, we hurt. Over the past 20 years we have helped some transition to the after life, and to do, but necessary at times. Most their injuries are due to man…..fences, cars, etc… Humans are not goods for them. But we have encroached into their world. We try our best to accommodate them, make pass through openings in our fences, have water running 24/7, in several areas along the property. We love to make our little world safe for all…….
I can’t imagine he pain you felt with this majestic bear. May he run free and whole wherever they go. If there is a God, He will welcome him into His arms, as he created him……sending love and hugs from Texas
It seems the bear population in our town is dense this year and growing steadily. As you say Samdy, we’ve taken over their home and now there’s less and less space for them. We need to keep the wilds that we have so we can live together.
Beautifully said, Maria. Thank you.
Maria you describe things so well, have you ever thought about writing a book yourself?
Thanks Uta, But I can’t imagine writing a book.
Maria, you have a reverence for all life and this was shown in your goodbye for the young bear. You are known, we are known. Perhaps if this was part of the world’s knowledge,our actions would all done with reverence toward life. Thank you for this beautiful post. It is a gift to us all.
It’s about being known isn’t it Veronica. That’s an idea I’m only recently beginning to understand. You’ve added some understanding for me to it.
Oh Maria, my heart got heavy while reading your post. You are such a compassionate kind person. Lucky bear, he had a kindred spirit to help him on his way
Maria, I love how you honored this bear’s life. I felt the loss along with you as I read your account. We are all connected in the circle of life.