Thursday, October 26, 2006


AGING AND ELDERS AND BEARS, OH MY!


I myself have never seen a bear around here, though I've heard tales of them in these woods, seen signs of them and know they're there. I know several bear-scratch trees, which are usually near an old oak where the bears get fatted up on acorns for the winter and polish their claws, mark their turf before the big sleep.

I also have a section of a bear tree I found the other day among some firewood I scavenged from upmountain. As I was deciding whether or not the section needed to be split, I spotted five long, last-year gouges in the wood on one side; on the other side was one dark older gouge, made when the tree was younger and since widened by the tree's subsequent growth.

A couple of springs ago, not far from here - down below us, in fact - a farmer was attacked by a bear he'd come upon suddenly while walking home through the woods in the late afternoon after working in his fields. Fortunately he was carrying a hand scythe, and was able to stab at the bear and drive it away before it did too much damage.

The mendicant monks of the mountains (yamabushi) used to (still do?) carry walking staffs with metal heads that had metal rings dangling from them that clinked loudly every time the staff struck the ground along the mountain trails, the sound giving any nearby bears ample warning to get out of the way, as that is bears' preference, if given the chance; if they can hear you coming, you'll never see them. Whistling is good too, which is what I've always done when I walk, and likely why I've never seen a bear around here. Then again, maybe that's a tacit bear comment on my whistling.

But never in my wildest bear ponderings have I come anywhere near making a connection between the current aging of the Japanese population and the increasing number and daring of bears! Bear/human interaction, including raids on gardens and attacks on humans, is definitely on the rise, judging by the number of such incidents I see on the tv news, but I had no idea that increasing human elderhood was a factor!

The fabric of the universe is infinitely woven...

[Later addition: Good bear article, with thanks to Jeff Bryant]

6 comments:

Maya's Granny said...

We see bears around here, not only in the woods, but also in town. Before the city invested in bear-proof trash containers they loved to come in and eat out of dumpsters. One year a pair of twins got into the dumpster, the lid fell on them, they cried, the mother climbed on top of the lid trying to get them out and trapped them further -- luckily it only took her a minute or two to figure out what the problem was. That happened across the street from where my office mates and I were sitting outdoors watching.

We go in for bells when taking walks in the woods and for giving the bear the right of way when you see her.

Chancy said...

Oh Good Heavens.

.
Isn't enough that they blame us for getting old and sick and costing the government money to insure our health and longevity. Now they are blaming us for bad bears too.

Trace said...

You be careful out there when you are taking your walks!

ted said...

I've heard the same thing goes for monkeys, too. As the elderly begin to abandon working their fields, the monkeys are no longer being frightened off by humans. About twice a week, I watch a large male hop my neighbor's wall to steal figs.

Keep fighting the fight Robert!

Mary Lou said...

I had no idea there were bears in Japan. I sure hope they are nothing like Maya's Granny's bears. Hers are serious big bears. what are yours like?

Robert Brady said...

Crescent moon bears (as they are called here) can get up to 6 feet tall standing, and up to 400+ pounds; about like the American black bear, I think...