My mother used to sing a song to me when I was young. The tune was to "He's a Jolly Good Fellow" and went:

The bear went over the mountain,

The bear went over the mountain,

The bear went over the mountain,

To see what he could see.

And all that he could see,

And all that he could see,

Was the other side of the mountain,

The other side of the mountain,

The other side of the mountain,

Was all that he could see.

That song has been stuck in my head ever since a black bear recently decided to check out the contents of our trash hauler.

We live in the West End of North Adams, at the foot of Mount Williams, which is home to the city's two reservoirs. Wildlife is nothing new in the neighborhood. We've had an opossum on our deck, a red fox in the back yard and, last weekend, a deer bounded in front of my car as I traveled a neighborhood street. A friend, who lives around the corner and down the street, spotted a mother wild turkey and her two babies a couple of weeks ago.

Bears are also frequent visitors to the neighborhood, usually in the spring. They wander down the streets of the neighborhood and delight in checking out people's trash receptacles.

The first one I ever spotted was early one morning, about four years ago, when I let the dog out.


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I heard someone rattling cans around in a cooler. I didn't look because the neighbors often have late-night campfires and people sometimes camp out in their backyard. I finally looked over and saw a very large black bear helping himself to whatever was in a large beverage cooler.

A week or so ago, I woke to the sound of my son getting out of bed at midnight, going out onto our deck and yelling, "Get out of there!"

Sitting in the middle of our driveway was a good-sized black bear -- eating the remains of an Entenmann's yellow cake with chocolate frosting!

"Where did he get the cake?" I asked David.

"Mom, there's a bear in our driveway and all you can think about is where he got the cake?" David asked.

To be honest, it was. I've never bought a ready-made cake from the supermarket. Plus, if I had, it would have been chocolate with white frosting. And, since we have a garbage disposal, there is rarely any food in the trash.

"It must have come from the neighbors," I mused. "He must have brought it with him."

"Mom, there's a bear in our driveway," David said, enunciating each word slowly.

Despite the fact that David yelled at the bear, and he and some neighbors turned their flashlights on him, the bear was determined to stay.

We watched as he polished off the cake and ambled down the driveway, leaving the overturned trash hauler and a ripped-open garbage bag in his wake.

It was 3 a.m. the next night when the crash of the trash hauler being knocked over woke us up. The bear apparently didn't find any good-smelling bags and ambled back down our driveway. He stopped long enough to climb the tree at the end, came back down, stretched upright and scratched his back on the bark.

That evening, I was watching TV when a group of neighbors started running up the street, yelling "Get out of there!" The bear was on a rampage through the neighborhood, knocking down trash cans and haulers as he went. He lead neighbors -- and the police department -- on a merry chase before retreating back into the woods.

I haven't seen the bear in a few days. I guess my trash hauler didn't make his five-star dining list after all.

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In honor of Yogi (as I've dubbed our bear), who seems to prefer trash haulers to "pic-a-nic baskets," I offer this simple recipe for bear claws. (If you think I'm going to make my own puff pastry, you're crazy! Let Pillsbury or whoever do all the hard work!) It comes from the late Mr. Food, who reigned on TV station WRGB for decades, telling us, "Ooh, it's so good!!" I really miss that guy ...

Almond Bear Claws

Makes 11 2 Dozen

Prep: 18 Min

Cook time: 18 Min

1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

1 (12-ounce) can almond filling

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons water

1 3 cup sliced almonds

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut each puff pastry sheet into nine (3-inch) squares. Spread half of each square with 2 teaspoons almond filling, pressing edges gently to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut three slits in top of pastry; curve pastry slightly to resemble claws, and place on lightly greased baking sheets.

Whisk together egg yolk and water in a small bowl; brush egg mixture over pastries, and sprinkle evenly with almonds.

Bake 16 minutes or until golden. Remove from pans to a wire rack; cool.

Microwave chocolate chips in a small bowl at medium (50 percent power) 11 2 minutes or until chocolate melts, stirring halfway. Drizzle chocolate evenly over pastries.