Where Are the Wild Things?

“Mommy, Mommy…I saw a bear on the way to work this morning. He was so cute. Looked like he was the size of a ten year old. His little feet were padding, heel, toe, heel, toe, heel, toe across the road!!!”   That was phone call on my cell Tuesday morning.   It was not our first spotting of ‘a cute bear’ up on Route 601 North.

Two years ago in June we were making strawberry jam. We had just picked the most delicious strawberries from Mackintosh’s Fruit Farm (http://www.mackintoshfruitfarm.com).   Great fresh, local produce (a story for another day).

Well, as the story continues, we were making five batches of jam and the kitchen was getting hotter and hotter. Hubby says ”Why don’t we use the side burner on the grill to process these jars?” Smart hubby. So, while he was tending to the canner boiling away on the grill, I was preparing the next batch of jam. Windows open, steam rising, and fans blowing.

The bear that stopped by for a taste of jam - Photo J. C. Coon

Have you ever driven by a restaurant and gotten a ‘whiff’ of what’s cooking and it makes you just want to stop and go in? Well, a cute little bear must have gotten a whiff of what was cooking and just could not resist stopping by.

Hubby says “Hunn-y…I think you need to come out on the deck.” But of course I am in the middle of preparing the next batch. What could be so important out on the deck?

“No, you need to come out here NOW!”

So out I come and there was the bear — AT THE BOTTOM of the steps. I am sure he was harmless and more afraid of me than I of he. (I assumed HE was a HE because hubby was trying to explain to me that ‘Mom’ must have had a new cub in the Spring and booted the little guy out to fend for himself — wise Mom, I could learn much from her.)

We watched him wander around but then, as he starts to head up the stairs, I get a bit freaked.

But hubby just grunts using his big, hubby caveman voice; “GO! GO!” And what do you know? Little bear just lumbers off into the woods, never to be seen again.

But I know I heard him again when we went to pick wineberries later that summer. (I am not at liberty to reveal where we picked wineberries, after all, there are enough for all of us).

In honor of the little guy (yes, I had the presence of mind to grab my camera) his photo was pasted onto all of my jam labels and we called it, StrawBear-y Jam.

StrawBear-y jam is a local specialty on Route 601 North - Photo J. C. Coon

To learn more about the Black Bears in our area I found this web site: http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/bear

Hmmm, I wonder if his parents meet at the Bears Den?? (“Wild Thing, I think I love YOU!!” to quote the Troggs single hit.) To learn more about Bears Den Trail Center and Hostel visit:  http://www.bearsdencenter.org/about.html

Do you have a “Wild Thing” story to share?


  1. Right Winger says:

    Bears are the coolest!

  2. J.C.Coon says:


  3. Bville-Bud says:

    Very nice story!

  4. The saddest thing is people keep killing them in Clarke. From the construction worker who ‘accidentally’ hit one hard enough to kill it with his pickup truck while building the Food Lion (no one questioned how he did this in a 25MPH area), to the guy who shot one in his front yard (at a time when the season for them was closed in Clarke) but got his picture on the front page of the Clarke Courier anyway with his new trophy. Others too. A shame.

    Likewise the way Bobcats have just about all been hunted to extinction here in Northern Clarke. Another shame. I haven’t heard a Bobcat wail in almost two decades. I miss that sound.

    I too had a Black Bear encounter this late spring. I went picking raspberries on my land. Have a long 900 yard strip where mowed meadow meets thick woods and the berry plants are thick at the juncture. I was in the middle of the line filling my bucket and suddenly noticed a bear at the end of the line doing his own picking. While we each kept one eye on the other, neither one of us stopped. I filled my bucket and when I left he was still doing his thing.

    Deer are a different issue. They have become like roaches. I must have 50 of them. I shoot one, two or three of them every other year and have others I trust to not shoot the bears or any Bobcats or the large grey fox (he is big and this is the second year I have seen him) that also come by with my permission to hunt and they take a few too. Still every year I have more and more deer. This is because some idiots killed off the Bobcats and Black Bear that kept the deer population in check.

    • I don’t think I’ve ever heard that deer were prey to bears. Bears can’t run as fast as a deer.

    • Ken–what do you know about coyotes in these here Blue Ridge mountains? I hear tell they are here and I know one time I heard that there was a ‘bounty ‘ on their heads and you could get money for dead ones. But that has stopped? I have not seen them up here but think I have seen their scat, but never them. Would love to hear some coyote stories…Great book about Coyotes by Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer

      • They are here, but there is not a bounty on them in Clarke.

        I am told Warren Cty has a bounty on them, but it has to be killed there in Warren. Similar in all the other counties with Coyote bounty. Killing them in Clarke and dragging them to Warren for a bounty could land one in a heap of trouble. Fraud, false claims, etc.

        That being said, unless you are one of the sheep or chicken farmers, you probably won’t see much of the coyotes. I have seen them, had to kill a few back in 05 after receiving a report about them circling my wife and our cat, but although I have seen them occasionally since then, no further behavioral problems from the remainder. The ones here are the Eastern Coyote. Very similar in appearance to the mythical Red Wolf. About 30 to 60 pounds. Picture a big red Shepherd dog and you are in the ball park. They do packs and solitary hunts and don’t howl much.

        Try putting out a game camera (sold at the tractor supply store, and on line) with a built in motion detector and a pan of chopped deer liver or something similar. You may see some critters you haven’t been aware of before. Understand doing this may bring them to your neighborhood and you shouldn’t do this if you have small children, puppies or cats that also roam the area.

  5. Jane Wood says:

    I’ve caught one brief glimpse of what I think was a coyote 2-3 years back. We’ve seen bear, rattlesnakes and other snakes, foxes, raccoons, weasels, groundhogs, turtles and salamanders, even a wild cat once, but that coyote sighting is the only time.

  6. Coyotes are plentiful throughout the Northern Shenandoah Valley. However, they can cover an enormous amount of ground and in many cases don’t stay put for very long. I’ve had audible encounters each year from 2007 on – 2008 was a particularly active year around our property. Here’s an interesting cycle to look for… if you have a dramatic increase in red fox in your area, expect to hear/see coyotes not far behind. They are mortal enemies, and coyotes will remain in an area in an effort to eliminate the red fox.

    While bear and bobcats can be considered predators for deer, it’s generally fawns who would fall to prey and likely not in large numbers. Coyotes and that gray/red fox are likely more efficient predators for young deer, and either taking down a healthy adult whitetail is pretty rare.

    Bear populations throughout the state are on a marked increase. The deer, well we all know there’s too many of them roaming around. I attribute that to changeover in property owners in some areas to those without experience or knowledge in how hunters can play a positive role in wildlife management. That, and darned if people don’t like to feed them.

    VDGIF’s website has some very useful information about our wildlife. Of note is an important story about Chronic Wasting Disease in the whitetail population, and steps the agency has employed to combat it’s spread.