One summer in 1995, about 2:30 in the morning, while Granny was sound asleep, Missy sat in the bathroom window and talked to an animal outside on the mountain. And the animal answered her back. They talked and talked, having quite a little chat, and eventually they got so noisy, that Granny woke up. "What in heavens name woke me up?" she asked herself. And then she heard it, the dialog in the bathroom. "Meow, meow, meow," said Missy. "Unghh, unghh, unghh," came the answer from the mountainside outside the window. "Goodness gracious," said Granny, "whatever has Missy made friends with now?" Granny asked this question because she knew that Missy will make friends with anything too big for her to hunt herself that doesn't hunt her. Other cats. Dogs. Ravens. Porcupines. (Although, unlike Abe, she doesn't go up and sniff porcupines from behind. She tries to sniff them nose to nose from the front, and when they turn their backs on her, she leaves them alone. So she doesn't get a nose full of quills when she sees them.) So Granny got up and went into the bathroom to see what Missy had made friends with this time (the unghh, unghhs being friendly noises, after all. It was also somehow a small noise. Not like a large animal, but like an animal about the size of a raccoon. Although, since Granny had never heard a raccoon, she wasn't sure that one would sound like that.) When she looked out the window, she couldn't see a thing on the side of the mountain, even though it was summer and so the sun was already out. So Granny had to climb up on the counter and look out the window and down the mountainside. And there was a bear cub!
"Goodness gracious!" said Granny. "Missy, you haven't any sense. Don't you know that that is a bear cub? Don't you know that wherever there is a bear cub there is a bear mama not very far away? What are you doing? If that cub decides to come in the window to visit you, he can do it easily," said Granny, looking at the gentle slope between the mountainside and the bathroom window. She knew a person couldn't get in that window, but a bear cub would have no trouble at all. "And don't you know, you silly cat, that if Baby Bear came in the window, Mama Bear would follow? No self-respecting Mama Bear is going to let her cub climb into a strange house and not go after it." And Granny pictured Mama Bear following the cub into the bathroom, and then the two bears being trapped in the house and frightened. Just about the last thing in all the world that Granny wants is to have a frightened Mama Bear trapped in her apartment trying to protect her cub. "Why, Missy, don't you know there isn't a single interior door in this entire apartment?" she asked. And she pictured Mama Bear chasing Granny and Missy up and down the stairs, and them without a single door to close behind them. And she didn't like that picture at all.
So Granny closed the bathroom window, and went back to bed. That kept Missy and Granny safe, and bear prints off the rugs, but it made it warm in the bedroom without the cross breeze, so Granny wasn't best pleased with this solution. But she had no other.
And the next night, the same thing happened. Missy and Baby Bear talking, Granny waking up and having to close the window. For almost three weeks, every night Missy would talk to Baby Bear, and every night Baby Bear would answer, and every night Granny would get up and close the window -- just in case. But, finally, Mama Bear took Baby Bear to another part of the mountain to forage for berries and he didn't come to visit Missy anymore and Granny slept through the nights with her windows open all night again. What a relief, to sleep cool on a hot night. Although, both Missy and Granny missed Baby Bear. He was such a pretty little cub, and so friendly.
Now, Granny almost forgot about Baby Bear until one morning in mid-October two years later -- a whole year and two months after Maya was born, and Granny had started thinking about her the first thing when she woke up every morning. Granny was taking out the garbage, and the cans were spilled and garbage was spread all over the street. Something had been in them. "I wonder," said Granny "if it was a dog or a bear. Let me think about this, can I figure it out? I know that the lids on the cans were all screwed down tight" she said, looking at the special garbage cans that are supposed to be bear proof, "and I know the bungee cords were fastened. That means it probably was not a dog," said Granny, "it's a rare dog that can pull off a bungee cord and unscrew a lid. But a bear! Yes, indeed. It would have to be a pretty stupid bear who couldn't get into these cans." And so she examined the lids to see if she could find evidence of a bear. "Aha," she said "I see tooth marks in the lids. Big tooth marks. We have a garbage bear! Some silly bear has learned that there is food in garbage cans, and instead of hibernating like it is supposed to, it is staying awake because the food hasn't run out! Those bears won't go to sleep while there is still food, no matter that the days are shorter and the weather is colder." So Granny started to clean up the mess. One of her neighbors came out to help her, and soon all the garbage was back in the cans and the road was clean again.
Granny was very careful what garbage she put in the can, saving food scraps in her freezer until the day the truck came to pick up and even then she put used cat litter on top of it to discourage the bear, and sort of forgot about it until Halloween. She didn't see or hear any evidence of the bear, and so she relaxed. Then, on Halloween, the newspaper and tv news mentioned that parents should avoid taking their children to Starr Hill to trick-or-treat, because a couple of garbage bears had been spotted in that neighborhood. "My goodness," said Granny, "Starr Hill -- that's just around the bend from here. They are talking about my garbage bear. My oh my, they haven't been in our cans lately. They must be getting into cans where the people aren't hiding the smell of food under the kitty litter. Only it isn't one, it is two. I wonder," Granny wondered, "if I know these bears? Could it be Mama Bear and Baby Bear after all this time?" And she wondered about that a lot, but there was no way she knew of that she could ever know.
Now, sure enough, no children came to Granny's door on Halloween. But, then, no children ever come to her door on Halloween, because it is such a high hill to climb, and there are so few people who live at the top, that the children go to other neighborhoods, where they don't have to work so hard to get so little. And on Halloween night, about 1:00 a.m., Granny was sound asleep in bed, and she was awakened by honking horns and flashing headlights. Granny got up and looked out her bedroom window to see what the commotion was all about. It was her neighbors, who live at the other end of the building. The same neighbor who had cleaned up the spilled garbage with her. They couldn't get into their apartment, because the bear was back. He was sitting on top of a garbage can, fishing around in another can for food. When they honked their horn and flashed their lights, thinking to scare him off, he just went under their staircase and hid. That was very bad, because the neighbors had to climb that very staircase to get into their apartment. They couldn't do it with a bear under the stairs!
"Oh my," said Granny, "now we have a problem. Those poor people can't sleep in their car. And they don't dare try to climb the stairs to their apartment. That would just scare the bear and he might chase them or even hurt them if he thought they were trying to hurt him." And Granny couldn't think what to do (although the very next day she realized that if she had called 911 the police would have sent someone from Fish and Game who would have known what to do. Her only excuse for not thinking of it at the time is that she had been asleep, and she isn't really good at thinking of anything until after she has thought of Maya, after all. And with a bear right outside keeping the neighbors out of their apartment, well, Granny hates to admit it, but this time she didn't think about Maya until after the bear went away.)
And then Missy climbed into the window that Granny was looking out of. "Meow, meow, meow," she said. "Unghh, unghh, unghh" answered the bear in the friendliest manner possible. "Goodness," said Granny, "that foolish garbage bear is our very own Baby Bear. He is supposed to be hibernating. I thought surely Mama Bear had taught him better than this." Granny took another look out of the window, "Well, well," she said, "Baby Bear has certainly grown big. Probably pretty strong, as well. I wonder if he still hangs out with Mama Bear, or if he's on his own these days?" But since Baby Bear doesn't speak English, and Granny doesn't speak bear, there was no way to find out. Finally Baby Bear went away, no one knows why, and the neighbors were able to get out of their car and go to bed. Maybe Missy told him to. Or maybe he just got bored with sitting under the stairs while the lights flashed and the horn honked. And if he had stayed longer, maybe Granny would have thought of calling 911 that night. Granny hopes she would have.
A few days later, there was an article in the paper which read:
Downtown problem bear capturedAnd then, that night on the news, there was a report that the bear had been released out-the-road, where there are no garbage cans. "Well," said Granny to Missy, "I'm glad Baby Bear has been moved out-the-road, where he will be encouraged to hibernate by the lack of garbage cans to raid. I do wonder if that other bear is Mama Bear. Could be." And then she looked sternly at Missy and said, "See what you did? Taught Baby Bear that this was a good place to hang out, and then when the berries were all gone and it was time to hibernate he remembered our place and came back and found garbage. I told you talking to bears wasn't a good idea." But who knows if Missy learned a thing from it? And who knows if Granny really wanted her to?
Juneau — One of the furry thieves that has raided Starr Hill garbage cans in recent weeks has been taken into custody.
The thief may qualify for an early release, however, since it's a black bear.
Captain Michael DeCapua, spokesman for the Juneau Police Department, said officers responded to their first bear report last night shortly before midnight on Starr Hill, but the bear was gone before it could be found.
About an hour later, more bear calls came in from the area on the slopes of Mt. Roberts above downtown.
"We received a report from several people in the Fifth and Nelson street area," DeCapua said. The callers said a bear had been caught in a trap and was trying to break out.
Police called Matt Robus, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game, who removed the trap and the bear early this morning. Robus was not available to talk about the bear and what will be done with it this morning.
The bear may be the one that some Starr Hill residents feared could confront trick-or- treaters laden with sweets. Those fears didn't come true, however, Halloween passed without any reports of the problem Starr Hill bear.