When Large Furry Animals with Long Claws and Sharp Teeth Come to Visit

Bear track and Peggy track. One of the animals here is a heck of a lot bigger and much more furry than the other!

I know, I know… I promised to cover our train trip on this post but I got side-tracked (in more ways than one). On Saturday, I was diligently working away in our library writing about the cast of characters who ride the rails when I looked out the window and noticed three deer madly dashing around our yard with their tails straight up signaling “Danger! Danger! Danger!” They charged up the hill, jumped the five-foot fence into the neighbor’s yard, did a 180, flew over the fence again and disappeared into our canyon going all-out. If you’ve ever watched frightened deer running, you know how fast this is. Seconds afterwards they burst out of the canyon and repeated the process. I called Peggy in to watch.

“Something big that likes venison must be visiting and the deer smell it,” I speculated and suggested that the local cougar might be back.

A few minutes later the deer had hightailed it up the mountain. Our property, which is normally busy with deer, squirrels, numerous birds, and other wildlife, had become eerily silent. Even the ever-squawky jays that I depend on to tell me when dangerous predators— like the local cat— are about, were uttering nary a peep. 

Since we needed to do our daily mailbox walk and a fair amount of snow from the storm that I featured in my last post hadn’t melted, I proposed we keep an eye out for cougar tracks. The walk is close to a mile with the mailbox being at the halfway point. We do a round trip, leaving by our back road and returning by our front road. There would ample opportunity to look for tracks. 

We found them near the mailbox! I confess I felt a bit like the deer, ready to raise my tail and dash off. 

We were on the homestretch, heading up the hill to our home when we saw the next set of tracks. They came out of the canyon and headed straight for our house. That added a bit of excitement (he noted in understatement). Peggy and I quickly checked around the house. Sure enough, the big cougar had wandered around in our backyard the night before and possibly onto the snowless section of our deck. If so, it would have been about six feet away from where we were sleeping. That’s Peggy’s side of the bed. (Grin)

Things were more or less back to normal on Sunday. The deer were back, a bit jumpy, but none-the-less munching away. The bird feeder was a circus with six species contending over who got the sunflower seeds. And three squirrels were busy chasing each other in a row with love on their minds. They shot up, down, and around trees nose to tail, nose to tail.  

Monday, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, had a slight twist.  There was no mail, so we decided to hike up into the forest where we had taken our snow hike. This time, however we would veer off to visit what we call the bear cave. Not that we’ve ever seen a bear; it’s an old gold mining operation. We named it the bear cave to give our grandkids more of a sense of adventure when they visited. I once took our grandson Cody up there when he was five on a bear hunt with our sling shots. He’d been excited to go on an adventure with Grandpa. The closer we had got to the cave the more reluctant he had become. We’d stood back from the cave and lobbed pellets in to scare the bear out. 

This time, my lovely wife was the reluctant one.  She suggested we go for a walk on the road instead. Could it be that the cougar had her spooked?  I laughed and away we went up the mountain. We had made the cutoff when we saw a set of huge tracks heading in the general direction of the cave. Bear tracks. Peggy let me take a couple of photos before she insisted that we beat a hasty retreat.

Following are some photos of the various tracks we came across.

Cougar track in melting snow. Note four paws and a lack of claws. Cats keep there claws retracted.
Dog track for comparison. Note the distinct claw marks.
Tracks across our back yard.
Final shot of the bear print.

NEXT POST: The train trip! Unless, of course, someone else comes to visit. 🙂

25 thoughts on “When Large Furry Animals with Long Claws and Sharp Teeth Come to Visit

  1. I’m with Peggy. Not really anxious to get up close and personal with a bear or cougar and, yes, we have them here, too. We’ve seen tracks in mud along the creek. Eric did see a bobcat sitting just up the bank on top of our well house. Of course, the camera didn’t happen to be handy! 😦

    • I know from your previous posts that you live out in the boonies as well, Gunta. A couple of months back we had a bobcat come down to our house. By the time I got my camera, it had moved up to our pump house and was trying to catch a jay. Those guys are fast. (The jay got away, however.) –Curt

    • I would have actually followed the tracks to see if the bear went to the cave, Arati. But Peggy had the right idea. 🙂 Cody is a brave kid to go at all. Grandpa had made ‘bear scratches’ in the trees to add to the ‘reality’ of the trip, and, judging from the scratches it was one huge bear. Laughing. His mom was a little more vocal the time when she was sleeping in our guest room, which is next to our back porch, when a bear came up on the porch and turned over our Webber grill. “CURTIS!” she yelled.

  2. What a wonderful home you and Peggy have, Curt! A few other of our blogger friends have a rural retreat, but I suspect most of us are much too urban.
    Here in our multi-unit condo in Florida, we get excited when a tiny alligator visits the bridge over our pond.

    • Nothing shabby about gator visit, Ray. 🙂 But I confess that Peggy and I consider ourselves blessed with our home in the woods. We, too, did the condo bit when we lived in Sacramento. I had to be satisfied with a gray squirrel that would climb the tree next to my office and stare in the window at me. A truly exciting day was when it decided to hassle a cat. –Curt

  3. I’m not sure I could bear finding tracks like those last ones in my territory. The good news is there aren’t many bears around here, although we do have gators, bobcats, and feral hogs. Still, it’s the snakes and mosquitoes that are the clear and present danger.

    One thing’s for sure: when Peggy’s instinct says, “Nu-uh — let’s go this other way” it might be good to pay attention.

    • 🙂 It was bearable, Linda. And I confess, even though I have had many more bear encounters than the vast majority of people, mosquitoes have been much more of a hassle in my years of wilderness travel.

      As an aside,Peggy usually gets behind me in our bear encounters. Grin. Those tracks were large enough, she got no argument from me! –Curt

  4. This sounds pretty exciting. Perhaps more exciting than I’d want. I’m with Peggy on the hasty retreat. Having said that I lived in the wilderness, and a very small town surrounded by wilderness, for years so none of this would be new. When I was camp cooking up north one of the guys taught me haw to use a gun. I decided I was more scared of guns than bears.

    • I remember your stories about up north, Alison. 🙂 When I lived up there and led wilderness treks, the old timers could never understand why I didn’t carry a weapon out in the wilderness. –Curt

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