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Everyone knows that Yogi is smarter than your average bear. When he was about to get in trouble, his companion Boo-Boo would intervene to keep Yogi from getting into trouble with Ranger Smith. Yogi's problem always seemed to involve a picnic basket.
Ranger Smith placed the "Do not feed the bears" signs around Jellystone Park. Still, visitors would leave their baskets unattended, and the bears would find them. Probably because Yogi was known to use a pencil to cross out the word "not," making the sign read "Do Feed the Bears." Yogi was always on the lookout for a "pic-a-nic basket" and just couldn't resist stealing one at every opportunity. I loved watching those cartoons of Yogi Bea and Boo-Boor when I was growing up.
I grew up, did a lot of camping where bears live, and eventually moved to the north woods. I learned the importance of not only not feeding the bears but the necessity of proper food storage to keep your camp, or picnic site, bear-proof. Bears and people just don't make good partners when sharing the same food basket. Still, I inadvertently feed the bears and other animals.
We put out hummingbird feeders in the spring in anticipation of their return. Bird feeders with different seeds draw various birds that are fun to watch year-round. But unfortunately, keeping squirrels and raccoons out of the bird feeders is an ongoing quest, and in reality, a lost cause.
The birds and squirrels will spill and drop seeds. But nothing goes to waste around here; the deer and the bears gladly come around to clean up the ground below the feeders.
Although we have had bears in our yard in the past, we don't see them anymore. This is because June has well-marked our yard, keeping the bears at bay. (Dogs and bears do not get along and will keep their distance from one another.) We still see bears in our neighbors' yards, but they don't have dogs. Our neighbors tell me they also see bears going through our yard from time to time, but way outback. So the bears stay clear of our house - June's territory.
The bears will stay clear of June's area, but the deer come right up to the house for the treats under the feeders, all the while keeping a vigilant watch for that dog. I've even seen hoof prints in the snow ON our front porch a couple of times. The deer can't reach the feeders hanging on the porch railings from the ground. So, one deer was brave enough to come up attempting to rob the sunflower seeds on the porch! We enjoy the wildlife around our home and welcome all the animals.
When I am cooking and have carrot, potato, or apple peelings, I'll put them in the yard for the deer. If I have fresh fruits or vegetables that have aged, I put them out as well. The grouse are particularly fond of apples.
There are different theories on feeding wild animals. Some say you shouldn't; others say it's okay; each has logical reasons to support their position. But, this story is not to debate the issue.
Every fall, we have mice and voles that seek winter nesting inside our garage. I put food out for them too. Of course, the seed I set out for critters in the garage is inside a live trap. When I catch mice, I release them near the creek down the road. They can find new places for suitable nesting or become part of the food chain, the circle of life. We've been feeding the mice for a long time.
When Melissa and I were dating, she lived in a cute little cottage house in the country. One day, she went into her kitchen, where she saw a mouse run across the floor, taking shelter behind the refrigerator. Expressing no desire to be roommates with a mouse, she told me she would buy a trap.
I assumed she would get a typical mouse trap – a rectangular piece of pine with a very sensitive latch and a wire that held a spring-loaded copper-colored bar. It's the kind of trap that makes a very distinct snapping noise when it goes off; and hurts like the dickens if it trips in your hand while setting it. I'm not afraid to admit I was always (and still am) a little scared when arming one of those old mouse traps.
The basic mouse trap came in a two-pack for a dollar nineteen. Instead, Melissa bought a clear plastic live trap. I questioned her, "You paid almost twenty bucks for a mousetrap."
"I don't want to hurt him," she justified. "I just want him of my house." The same day she placed the trap next to the refrigerator, she caught the mouse.
It was a grey mouse with a short, fat little body with a relatively short tail. His head seemed too big for his body, but I suppose it had to be. The mouse had huge dark eyes, big, perky ears, and long whiskers on his fat little cheeks. Melissa took the trap about ten feet outside the back door to release him. She had more mice in the house than she knew.
Every morning when she woke, she had another mouse in the trap. Then, there would be another when she came home from work in the evening. There'd also be yet another mouse in the clear plastic box if Melissa came home for lunch. Each time, she'd set the rodent free and put more bait in the trap. It was interesting that she only ever caught one mouse at a time, in a trap that would accommodate several.
After about a week or so of this, I finally spoke up. "You do realize that's the same mouse you're catching over and over again." She adamantly denied it. "For Pete's sake, you catch him, then release him just a few feet outside the door, and he comes right back in." She claimed I had no training or knowledge on mousology.
"Come on, Melissa. Look at his body. Look at his face: the big eyes, giant ears, long whiskers. It's the same darn mouse every time." She continued to deny my claim. "Why don't you stop setting the trap and just put some food out if you're just going to keep feeding him?"
Her response was sharp and to the point. "Why don't you mind your own business? This is my house, and I will take care of the mouse problem as I see fit. I don't need your help." Wow. She really put me in my place and continued to set me straight, "Besides, Beans needs to eat, too."
"Beans?" I was taken back.
"Yes, his name is Beans, and he'll quit coming back when he wants to. Now, why don't you mind your own business."
From that instance on, anytime I would see Melissa setting Beans free in the yard, I would roll my eyes or shake my head – but I knew better than to say a word about it/him. In truth, I admired the compassion and affection she showed to a simple field mouse. It was just another reason I fell in love with this girl.
Eventually, Beans stopped coming around. Melissa moved to a different house. We got married and moved together to northern Minnesota. Beans will come up in conversation from time to time, and to this day, she gets a little defensive should I poke fun at that situation.
Just the other day, actually, a few weeks ago, I noticed something strange in the kitchen. "What on earth is a live Asian beetle doing crawling across the counter in January?" I was baffled, "They usually go away for the winter." So I took a small paper towel to pick him up carefully, to avoid squishing him. (They stink bad if you squish them.) I was going to wrap him in the paper and dispose of him by way of flushing. Lord knows there's probably a massive colony of Asian beetles in our septic tank.
Melissa came running into the kitchen, "No! No! Don't hurt him." Once again, I was puzzled. Melissa approached the counter, pushing away my hand of devastation. "Watch this."
She opened a sealed container, pinched off a crumb from a Harvest Glory Muffin I had baked, and set it on the counter about an inch away from the bug. The beetle made its way, climbing on top of the morsel. I must admit I was a bit amazed as I witnessed the tiny bug consume the entire crumb but still complained, "This is why I make muffins?"
"Just be quiet, so you don't scare him." Melissa watched, too, as the small, round bright orange bug with black dots enjoyed the meal. "Now watch this," she said when the bug had finished eating.
Melissa took a toothpick, dipped it in water, placing a tiny speck on the counter. The Asian beetle crawled to the water and drank it all until no sign of water remained on the surface. "That is amazing," I said.
With affection, Melissa reported, "He's been coming around for a few days now." I could tell she's been feeding him daily and had become attached to the beetle. Like a little kid who found a puppy on the way home from school, I was almost expecting her to ask, "Can we keep him." But, she doesn't need my permission to keep a pet pest in the house.
I started to speak, "You do realize…." My wife gave me a firm, cold glare. "Never mind," I said, retreating to the bedroom. I needed to pack for a trip that June and I were taking.
While I was on the road, Melissa called one day to report concerning news. "The beetle showed up for breakfast this morning. He's moving kind of slow. I'm worried about him."
"Melissa, you realize…never mind." I quickly changed the subject. "How are the deer doing."
Melissa was excited to report, "There's a baby buck that started coming around. I can't wait for you to see him when you get home." Each day, she updates me on the birds, the squirrels, the grouse, the deer, the beetle, and the new young buck.
This morning I sent Melissa a text: "Did you name the Asian Beetle?"
I received an immediate response, "I'm not telling you."
Yes, from Beans on – we feed the wildlife.