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Ruth Bass: Marauder feasts on bluebird eggs and lettuce

Bear eating lettuce

A bear helps herself to lettuce in columnist Ruth Bass' Richmond garden. The collar around its neck holds a tracking device that has gone offline.

RICHMOND — It’s not good to lose your global positioning system, better known as your GPS.

It can happen when you hit a recently created detour in an unfamiliar town, and the satellite hasn’t noticed it yet. That can be the beginning of a wild-goose chase of streets large and small, while the driver desperately tries to retain a sense of direction.

Humans have the ability to get through such dilemmas. They can stop and ask, unless they’re one of those drivers who hates stopping and asking and prefers going around in circles. But what if you were a bear? A bear whose GPS has stopped working?

Well, first of all, this bear doesn’t care. Wearing a wide collar with a nonfunctioning box beneath her substantial chin, she is blithely eating my beautiful lettuce. She has eaten at least four bluebird eggs and probably the lady who laid them.

She has broken one bluebird house pole, cracking the roof, and taken another off its post. She woke the dog one night by reaching for a hummingbird feeder outside the room where he sleeps. I’m on her trail — or in her trail — but her GPS is dead.

I can track only some of her forays, most of which seem to occur in broad daylight. I don’t know how often she lurks nearby under darkness. I thought one of the motion lights was malfunctioning because it kept going on by itself, but perhaps she was responsible for that, too. I’ve turned it off.

The Western Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife wants to track her, too. But first they must find her, sedate her and repair or replace the GPS box. Much as I’d like them to also relocate her to the other side of town, perhaps the large acreage of Hollow Fields, that’s not the plan. They just want to know this girl’s habits, denning places, cub production, etc.

Besides, if relocated, she might just find her way back here. That lettuce is delicious, and black bears cover many miles and large territories.

In the meantime, I carry a small air horn. Two toots on that device emitted a sound that probably aged my middle ear a decade but also sent the lettuce-harvester flying into the woods. (Research here indicates black bears can do 35-36 mph, so even Olympian Usain Bolt can’t out-sprint them.)

I was hoping she’d go all the way up Lenox Mountain and find sanctuary at Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley, but another birdhouse went down here two days later.

This bear doesn’t have a cub with her. When a man came from Fisheries and Wildlife to survey the situation and offer tips, he said that means she may have turned her most recent offspring loose this spring. Most of the tips involved outdoor location of trash bins and tempting feeders filled with black-oil sunflower seeds.

Our trash is inside, and even the second-floor planter of sunflower seeds has been refilled with purple petunias. No worries about a bear climbing up there, but finches and chickadees are messy, so they spill on the steps at bear level. They’re swept.

Everyone wants to know what will be done. What “they” will do, what I will do. They will trap her and reset her and set her free. I’m going to weed the carrots with an air horn close by, avoid day-dreaming when walking the dog, look out the window often and harvest lettuce daily. I don’t think she wants to share.

Perhaps her wanderlust is a search for a new guy. In her world, it’s time for that. If so, I hope Cupid is on the alert. Maybe love will settle her. I’d like her resettled.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her website is www.ruthbass.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.

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