Monday, December 13, 2010

The Bear Went Over the Mountain

There we were, settling down to watch the Christmas episode of The Office. Just as Dwight was pummeling Jim with snowballs, I heard a soft whump outside. It sounded like a drunk beggar falling into one of our porch posts--an event not inconsistent with this neighborhood. I glanced at the front door, expecting to see a bleary-eyed face peering in at us, but there was nothing there and the dogs seemed unconcerned so I turned my attention back to The Office. Soon I was distracted by an odd play of lights outside in the street and then I noticed a car pulling down the driveway--a cop car. "Ah," I thought, "Now the whump will be explained."

Jon had barely started out the door to talk to the cops, when the phone rang. It was the next-door neighbors. The usual method of communication with the neighbors is text message or facebook. An actual call to our home phone + cop car in the driveway meant something very serious indeed and I answered the phone fully expecting to hear about rape, murder, or fire. Not even a robbery would warrant this much excitement. My neighbor said, "Patience, there is a bear outside." I thought, "How strange. She must have said 'rapist' only I heard 'bear'." I asked her to repeat herself and this time there was no mistaking the word "bear." An actual bear, a big black bear was not only in the neighborhood, but had been seen going down our driveway.

Beehive, who lives at the corner, saw the bear at the bus stop, and the cops were already there. Meanwhile, the next-door neighbor stepped outside to see what the cops were up to and just about ran into the bear who was now headed down our driveway after which he may or may not have approached the porch and banged into something (the whump) before blundering through our other neighbor's back yard and damaging a fence after which he took to the streets again. The cops' strategy seemed to be to use their lights to shoo the bear back to the mountains, although all they succeeded in doing was to drive him further into town. The bear was last seen outside a fancy pants restaurant in the "downtown" section of my neighborhood. Where the bear went after that is anybody's guess. He was never caught and I suspect he just wanted a night on the town and maybe a little tapas. There are, in Charlottesville, enough wooded areas to conceal a bear for a good long time.

As you can see from my photos--one is of my street, the other the view out my bathroom window--the mountains are close to this side of town. On the other hand, we do live in the city and while this isn't the first time a bear has found his way to the city, it's still very unusual.

In a way, it's a lame story: a bear passed my house, made a whump that I didn't even bother to investigate because I was absorbed in a TV show and I never even saw him with my own eyes. The funny part is the collective tizzy into which it sent the neighborhood. All our cell phones started buzzing simultaneously, while the house phone rang as everybody called everybody else to warn each other. Facebook lit up like a firecracker as everyone who was adjacent to the bear that night posted a status update about it.

Beehive was stellar. The next morning, at the school bus stop, she stopped every single car that passed the corner and warned them about the bear. When the school bus came, she got into the bus and warned the driver and she posted this sign in the bus stop.

So don't say you weren't warned.


  1. It never ceases to amaze me the wildlife that appears in our town from time to time. When we lived in Greenbrier, there were a couple of bear sitings along the Rivanna Trail. Another time, there was a bear over on Rugby Road.

    Last year, I was walking from Locust to my house on a Sunday morning and a coyote blew past me and headed toward the bypass.

    If I had wanted animal sightings such as these, I would have bought land out in the country.

  2. We had a bear in our neighborhood too. I saw it one day when I went to work at 11 pm and it was periodically sighted eating trash. I wonder if it was the same one?

  3. Hello there - I never knew we were neighbors, I can see my house in your picture but never heard anything about the bear, probably because I was also watching the Office just then.

  4. Holy cow. That is both scary and incredible--a BEAR. In your CITY.

  5. Early in my time here, I saw a buck, antlers and all, trotting down Coleman Street as I was going to Chandlers for ice cream. I was totally delighted...but I was raised in the NYC area, so I'm not used to such things! I've been here since 2005 and haven't been able to make up my mind about whether I live in a city or in the country.

    Signs that point to my living in the city: crackheads, the prevalence of coffeehouses, public transit, a Greek diner (Tip Top reminds me of home!), and the fact that I walk to work and shopping

    Signs that point to my living in the country: bears

    Okay, I'm just being silly. I would freak out if I saw a black beer in my neighborhood, here or anywhere. Yikes!

  6. You would be amazed at the number of black bears that live in our little suburb of Orlando. There are always stories of bear sightings, usually around dumpsters at day care centers!

    One nutjob used to leave food rotisserie chickens, and one night one of the bears whumped on the door, he opened it and the bear clubbed him!

  7. I did not know there were bears in Florida, Little Miss. And what sane person would leave whole chickens out for a bear? Crazy!

  8. Several years ago when I was living near the Greek church off McIntire Road I awoke to find the police at my cross the street neighbors.
    I was concerned that it might be a burglar or prowler. When told it was a bear at at his trashcan I was totally relieved!
    Jen, don't know about you but I'd much rather have a bear visiting my yard than some of the hoodlum human element that we have here in C'ville.