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Down on the Farm -- Bears and bureaucracies

It was a dark and stormy night.

As dawn crept across the horizon, the early light revealed that my brand-new squirrel-proof bird feeder had been emptied over night.

I couldn't believe it. The fat psycho squirrel won again.

Would nothing stop him?

Angry and despondent, I stormed to the other end of the house--but stopped short. Something was amiss there as well.

Out in the front yard, my grill was tipped over and its contents fanned across the yard in the opposite direction of the previous night's wind.

This was an animal bigger than a squirrel. I went back to inspect the scene by the bird feeder more closely.

Sure enough, there were paw prints on the window under the feeder. Big ones. Bear prints, made out of muddy ash from the grill.

A bear in my yard! This was exciting. I couldn't wait to brag. If I didn't find anybody to brag to at work, I would go to the cafe. I had a story to tell!

I refilled the bird feeder. I was sure the bear was just passing through.

The bear story impressed exactly nobody. They all had better bear stories. Disappointed, I had forgotten the whole kerfuffle by the time I settled in to watch the ball game that evening.

As the Twins stunk it up against the Royals on the tube, I spotted a black blob out of the corner of my eye.

The bear was back, and in broad daylight. He was plopped flat on his belly in front of the window licking up the seeds from the feeder he had just clawed open.

I ran for the camera. The bear didn't care that I stood two feet from his nose, clicking away.

Eventually, the comedy of the scene made me laugh out loud. The bear heard me cackle through the window and took off.

Ten feet later, the promise of more seed drew him right back.

After he finished the seed from feeder No. 1, the bear circled the house to sniff the grill, which I still hadn't cleaned up.

Finding nothing there, the bear went back to the other side of the house where feeder No. 2 hung unmolested.

Not for long. The bear knocked over the shepherd's hook that held the feeder and rolled the plastic cylinder on the ground to get the seed out, which he then licked up off the grass.

That done, he circled around the garage. After squeezing between the car bumpers and the garage door, he was, I surmised, near the side door.

It is a door that doesn't always latch.

Panicked, I lunged at the door to make sure it was securely shut before I ran back to the window to see the bear up on his hind legs with his front paws against the same door.

I still wasn't safe: I recently replaced the round door knob with a door handle I could open with my knee when I have an arm full of groceries. Any door handle I can open with my knee would be no trouble for a bear.

He didn't figure it out.

Eventually, I poked my head out the door and yelled at the bear to see what he would do. He galloped off into the woods faster than any human could run.

That same night, the bear destroyed three bee hives on the other side of the woods. The beekeeper said that meant I could legally shoot the beast.

I have a nice deer rifle that hasn't been fired in years. I kind of liked the idea of hunting big game in my front yard. More than anything, I thought it would make a good story.

Then I realized that I would probably write about the incident in this column. That meant that I had better make sure it all was on the up-and-up.

So I called the DNR.

For once, a little bureaucracy was a good thing. The lady said I had to call another officer. He was out of the office. For a week.

In the meantime, somebody told me that if you shoot a bear once you probably won't do it again as they yelp like a baby and if you're human at all the sound will haunt you to the grave.

I put the rifle back in its case and pulled the bird feeders into the garage.

Sometimes it is best just not to mess with Mother Nature.