No-scare bear: Carmel homeowner videotapes feeder-raiding bruin

Jim Thorne has lived in his Carmel home for 20 years, and has enjoyed life on the edge of the woods. For the past few years, he said he has noticed an interesting phenomenon.

“In past years, the pole [for the bird feeder] has been bent over,” Thorne said. “I thought it was a fat raccoon [that caused the damage] trying to crawl up there. [The pole] is not real rugged.”

On Wednesday morning, Thorne learned that he might have a bigger problem than an obese raccoon: Thorne, an avid outdoorsman who is an advertising salesman for the Northwoods Sporting Journal, opened his blinds at 5:15 a.m. and noticed a visitor approaching.

“I saw this bear coming across the backyard. I told my wife, ‘There’s a bear in the backyard,'” Thorne recounted. “Of course, she said, ‘Yeah, right. Sure there is.'”

But there sure was.

The bear ambled over to the bird feeders, sat down, and commenced to sniffing and licking at it. If you’re wondering what kind of snack an omnivorous critter like a bear prefers, Thorne might have an answer for you: This bear walked right past a feeder full of niger seeds and spent all of its time on the feeder with black oil sunflower seeds in it.

“It just sits down and pulls the bird feeder down,” Thorne said. “I said, ‘I really don’t want the bear to keep eating, so I’m going to open the door here and scare it off.'”

His first attempt worked quite well: Thorne yelled and clapped his hands, and the bear retreated.

But it didn’t go far, and it didn’t disappear for long.

Bear at the feeder. (Jim Thorne photo)

Bear at the feeder. (Jim Thorne photo)

At that point, Thorne started videotaping. The bear, by that point focused solely on the sunflower seeds, didn’t seem to care, even as spoke to it, whistled at it, and tried to convince it to leave.

The video begins with Thorne’s voice. “We think we have a bear at our feeder,” he says. “Either that, or he’s a big squirrel.”

Eventually, abruptly, it did decide to exit.

“The bear started looking up in the backyard. Being a hunter, I’ve seen doe [deer] do that, and a buck comes in. I’ve seen cow moose do that, and then the bull comes in,” Thorne said. “[The bear] just ran into the woods. I said, ‘Something’s up.’ I looked up and [another bear] came hobbling across the backyard. I thought the first one was big.”

But the second bear was bigger.

Thorne said he’s always heard the way to judge a bear’s size is by looking at its ears. If the ears look small on a bear’s head, that simply means the bear is big. This pair of bears each had tiny-looking ears. Thorne thought they weighed 300 pounds or more.

Thorne posted his video on Facebook, and several friends commented on the post.

Around noontime on Wednesday, he opened his email inbox and saw a message that made him chuckle. It was a press release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife cautioning Mainers about nuisance bears. Among the suggestions that the DIF&W always makes: Take in your bird feeders so that bears won’t stop by for an easy snack.

“I’m not putting out any bird seed for a few days,” Thorne said. “We like watching the birds.

Though he had fun shooting the videos, seeing his first two bears on the property in 20 years has taken a bit of a toll, he said.

“That was scary. I said to my wife, ‘You want to go get the paper?'” Thorne said. “We’ve got a long driveway that goes out to the road through the woods.”

Her reply was predictable, Thorne said.

“She said, ‘I am not going out to get the paper ever again,'” he said with a laugh.


John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.