|At the end of the fence on the left, down by the lake, is where the Mama Black Bear was sitting later that day when we were ready to go home.|
|You have to look really closely - it was almost 10:00 p.m. when this photo was taken - but there are are two black bear cubs up in the tree eating fruit.|
Background to our Easter Bear Tale:
The greater Orlando area, particularly to the north, has been experiencing a bear problem. At first, nothing new, just increased sightings, more garbage cans raided, etc. Then twice over the last few months women were attacked. Just last week, a bear took a woman's head in its mouth and was dragging her toward the woods before she managed to get away. Her skull required 30 staples and 10 stitches! Plus gashes on her face and arms, etc. Florida Fish and Wildlife put a 24-hour guard on her house and shot seven bears in less than 48 hours, alleging none of them showed any fear of humans. It is suspected that someone in the area was feeding them. So a bear in the yard is now considered far more hazardous than it was in the past. Also, the news media made sure we all knew bears could run up to 30 mph!
Bears in the land of Disney and long sandy beaches? Believe me, those are just the views the tourists see. The interior of Florida has vast tracts of woods and lakes, where humans have only intruded in the last decade or two. And there's no doubt we are the intruders, but "progress" seems inevitable. Sigh.
When we arrived in Altamonte Springs on Sunday, where a relative was hosting the annual family Easter dinner, she told us about the bears that had been coming to the condo complex for the past year or so, sometimes making her late for work when they spread out near both front and back doors. But, she told us, this was at 6:30 in the morning, so we were unlikely to see any. (Much to the disappointment of the grandgirls, ages 7, 9, and 11.)
We had an Easter egg hunt on the lawn that stretches in front of the first-floor condo all the way down to the lake. (See photo above.) Followed by a grand dinner for fourteen, combined with a birthday celebration for the son of the family. All in all, a delightful family event. But just as we began to pack up the Easter baskets and presents the girls received, a phone call came from the neighbor upstairs. Bears! Out front.
Naturally, we all rushed for the door, but were promptly ordered back inside by my son-in-law, who, with his cousin, ventured out to see what was going on. The neighbors, safe on their second floor balcony, pointed out two bear cubs in a large fruit tree. And then came word that there was a bear out back. Since the men were barring us from looking out front, we all charged to the back and, sure enough, there at the lakeside end of the fence (see top photo) was Mama Bear, just sitting on the ground. (When our male guardians deserted the front door for the back door, my daughter sneaked up the outside staircase and took the cubs' photo from the second floor balcony.)
But as for going home, we were trapped! Like our relative who had been late to work three times, we had baby bears in front and Mama Bear in back. And as everyone knows, there's no more dangerous animal than a Mama Bear protecting her cubs. Our car, in a parking lot at the top of a small hill, seemed very far away. By this time my son-in-law and his cousin had joined the crowd at the back door. Since Mama Bear was way down by the lake and not moving, I suggested my son-in-law bring the SUV to the back door, which would be much closer than all of us attempting the run for the parking lot. (This, of course, presumed that the baby bears would stick to their fruit, having sense enough not to be interested in a full-grown human male as a food source.)
My son-in-law made it to the SUV, retrieved his Glock 9, and returned to pick us up, standing guard while Mommy, the three little girls, and I, traveled the 10-12 feet from back porch to road at a fast pace! As we drove back along the side of the condo complex, we paused to watch the branches of the fruit tree sway as the cubs gorged themselves. There was no breeze, and the contrast with the completely still branches of the fruit tree next to it was apparent. So although only Mommy got to see the cubs, we all had an opportunity to see that they were truly there, only feet from that second-floor balcony. And the black hulk of Mama Bear calmly sitting at the bottom of the lawn will be with me for some time. It's definitely as close as I ever want to come to a bear.
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