Jim Zumbo - Everything Outdoors

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Living with Grizzlies

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When my two labs were barking furiously on the deck, I walked out and saw a grizzly bear on the lawn. I put the dogs in the house, grabbed my video camera, and filmed the bear for several minutes as he rolled around playfully, ate some grass, scratched himself, and basically put on a show. The deck is 10 feet above the lawn, so I was in no danger. I was distracted to the point where I had forgotten to call the Wyoming Grizzly Bear Biologist who requested that residents call him immediately if a grizzly is seen around houses. He would then bring up a live trap, hopefully catch the bear and relocate it somewhere else. I remembered to call him, and I told him there was a bear on the lawn,

griz1"Right now?" he said.
"Right this second," I answered.
"I can't believe it," he said. "I'm in the valley a mile below your house with a camera crew from 60 MINUTES from New York City. We're interviewing residents who have grizzly bears living around their houses. We'll be right up!"

A few minutes later, three vehicles appeared on the dirt road, rapidly coming up the mountain. The bear heard them, and slowly sauntered into the brush alongside the creek. He disappeared and wasn't seen again. The crew came in, I put on a pot of coffee, and we viewed the footage on my TV. They were impressed and asked if they could use it, and I agreed. Of course. What the heck, I make most of my living selling words and wildlife pictures to magazine editors, so I figured I'd struck gold. 60 MINUTES in NYC! Now that was BIG. Before leaving, they interviewed Madonna and I. The biologist set a trap alongside the house, but the bear never came back. As it turned out, 60 MINUTES ran about 45 seconds of the bear and the interview, and I can tell you I didn't get rich with the check. But it was better than nothing, and I smiled all the way to the bank.

When we were building the house, there was a lot of sterile excavated soil around the building. I needed plenty of topsoil, so I built a 6 foot by 6 foot compost bin and made my own. It worked out well. I read all the books on composting, and applied all the ingredients, such as leaves, grass trimmings, aged horse manure, kitchen waste such as coffee grounds, used paper towels, banana peels, but never dog poop, fish or animal parts (from my hunting trips) because they cause unwanted odors and could draw flies and predatory animals. After returning home from an Alaskan fishing trip, I skinned and processed some chilled halibut I'd brought home. Knowing that fish is an outstanding ingredient, but not recommended, as I mentioned, I buried the skin a foot under in the bin. The next morning, I was dismayed to see that there was a huge hole in the compost, material was scattered everywhere, and some of the boards that formed the walls were ripped off. Telltale paw prints on the log wall of the house told the story. A griz paid a visit and had a meal of halibut skin, basically making a mess while in the process.

I've also found that grizzlies are fond of carrots in my garden, but just carrots. They leave the rest of the veggies alone.

People who don't live here often ask how I can possibly live in a place where there are grizzlies in my yard. Easy answer. I tell them I'd rather live on a mountain where grizzlies are trying to make an honest living, rather than in town or a suburb where there are felons with a human brain who might try to cause you harm. Anyway, that's just my opinion.

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