I’m choosing to believe that a team of collaborative raccoons did this.
Because I don’t want to think about the size, skill, and determination of any singular animal with the capacity to knock over our 60-gallon, 4-foot tall, heavy, full trash can, gnaw or tear into bags and containers, and scatter the residual detritus across our yard.
Now, some you folks live around bears, and you’re thinking something along the lines of, “Doesn’t she know how to bear-proof her trash? Why is it just sitting out in the open like that? What did she expect?”
But I live on the periphery of a bustling city, at least 30 miles from the nearest possible bear habitat. So practically speaking, it really couldn’t have been a bear.
I need it NOT to have been a bear. I’m terrified of bears, and I think that’s completely appropriate, rational, and downright legit.
The summer I was fourteen, I went on an Outward Bound trip. I spent two weeks canoeing, portaging, camping, and surviving in the boundary waters of Canada and Minnesota. The scenery was breathtakingly spectacular, and it needed to be. Because it was also riddled with biting black flies, cold rain (and accompanying “foot rot”), and all the luxuries of camping in the wilderness, including texturized vegetable protein and powdered milk for meals.
So lots of bears live up there, and we had some training to prepare for them before we left the base camp. We streamlined our toiletries so as not to attract them, packing one tube of toothpaste to share amongst the ten of us, and leaving our deodorants behind. We practiced bear-proofing the food packs, throwing ropes through the cruxes of trees and suspending the packs out of reach. And we talked about what to do if a bear came to camp.
We had our first bear encounter three days into the trip. We were portaging, and we “lost” one of the packs. We looked all along the paths, and we found it about twenty feet into the woods, shredded and depleted of most of the food. We learned to man the food packs at all times after that.
I shared a tent with the only other girl on the trip, and she was far less of a princess than I. Still, I was making the best of it until I could go home, shower, sleep inside, and eat real food. Anyway, we heard a bear reconnoitering outside of our tent on the fifth night. Terrifying. And not even close to cool or funny. We did not sleep that night, obviously.
We managed to complete the trip without further bear incidents, fortunately. But I’ve been thinking about this trip recently, and considering how lucky we were.
This summer, I read Claire Cameron’s The Bear: A Novel. I’m not going to spoil it for you if you haven’t read it, but it definitely put the fear of bear in me. Yikes. I’ve been reading it aloud to some of my students, and it’s even scarier in the dark using one of those tiny lights that clips onto the book.
So all I’m saying is, I’d like to hear from folks that other animals are capable of barreling into our trash this thoroughly. Decimating deer? Nefarious groundhogs?
There aren’t coyotes in the Southeast, are there?