How To Be Bear Smart On Naked Mountain

Chobani was not done with his (or her) visits to my house on Naked Mountain.  A few weeks later, early on a Sunday morning, a strange sound woke me up.  I opened my eyes to see a big black head looking in my bedroom window and two black paws pushing on the screens.  I jumped out of bed and ran toward the bear yelling at the top of my lungs.  Chobani scrambled back down off the Gravely mower that he had used to climb up to get up to the level of the window.  But then he just hung around in the yard.  My stepdaughter, who was visiting at the time, heard my yelling, saw the bear in the yard and raced out onto the screen porch yelling and waving her arms. That finally scared him (or her) and he ran into the woods.

Chobani’s claw imprint on porch screen

This incident frightened me enough to contact a wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The biologist told me the bear’s behavior was not normal since I had removed all enticements in and around my house months ago, including all bird feeders and bird seed containers. The bear had destroyed my bird feeders and a blue bird nesting box, in addition to invading my screen porch.  He encouraged me to warn my neighbors not to “feed” bears by leaving bird seed and pet food around.  He also encouraged me to get a small gauge shotgun which would stun the bear, but not seriously harm or kill it.

I had no intention of doing that.  I have never owned or operated a gun and never wanted to do so.  Naked Mountain is a rocky place and I am very sure I would simply injure myself with ricocheted gunshot. Not to mention that the kickback would probably knock me over.  I would also want any gun safely under lock and key to prevent accidents through mishandling by visiting friends or family.  Guns are dangerous, especially in the hands of amateurs.

Instead, I did this — got a slingshot and practiced, located my can of bear spray given to me by an Alaska-dwelling relative, and readied a very loud air horn for use.  But Chobani never showed up again that season.

Ten months later in early June, I went out for a walk down my long road and left every one of the bear-protection items at the house.  This, of course, was the day I met Chobani walking up the road!  He (or she) was bigger than the last time we met, probably by a good thirty pounds.  I stopped in my tracks.  I was a quarter mile away from the house and safety.  Chobani was about 150 feet down the road. I started yelling, loud, low, and angry!  Chobani stopped, looked and looked and looked.  I kept yelling. Chobani kept looking.  Finally, I started backing up… uphill, still yelling.  Then I flapped my arms up and down. That seemed to do it.  Chobani probably decided this was that, crazy woman from last summer – “I don’t want to mess with her.”  He turned and scrambled up the mountain into the woods. I never saw Chobani again all summer.

I intend to run a “bear smart” home on Naked Mountain which means I only feed birds between November and March and then remove all feeders and seed.  I also keep my recycle bins in the house and empty them frequently. In the summer, I keep my screen doors and windows open during the day to allow breezes through, but close and lock all of them at night and turn on the air conditioning (yuck.. but no choice; I miss the night sounds of cicadas). I avoid using the charcoal grill.

All of this is annoying, but I have chosen to live in the middle of a natural area preserve which means I am fortunate to see bears up close and personal now and then.  This is scary, but also very rewarding.  Bears are on Naked Mountain because I am ensuring they have good habitat for their survival.

So, Chobani, go out there and enjoy it and leave me alone!


 Does anyone have other ideas on how to be bear smart and prevent adverse bear encounters?