When you live high on a mountain and deep in the woods, you experience a diversity of sight and sound like no place else. Whether it is watching an Eastern Screech Owl and her baby roosting just feet away from my deck, listening as the moonshiners ply their illegal trade deep into the night, the rhythm of a Pileated Woodpecker rocking out to some unheard heavy-metal song, the rustle of leaves as chipmunks and snakes scurry off to their daily chores, the staccato reports of the yahoos up above me who target practice each weekend, or the screams of some birds that sound reminiscent of old Tarzan movies, there is always something to grab and hold your attention.
Oh, and then there is the occasional bear that wanders through the neighborhood.
Sandra Lynn was sitting out on the front deck one sleepless night a week or two ago, when she heard heavy footsteps on the slope to the east of my house. She scrambled to turn on the lights in time to see a moderate sized black bear step from the woods and meander down the driveway. As it crossed the gate line, it set off my driveway alarm and awakened me. We laughed and talked about the inevitability of a visit from an Ursus americanus; we do live in the Great Smoky Mountains.
We have repeatedly heard the alarm sound in the nights since then. I have elected to keep the outside garage lights on at night to deter our nocturnal neighbor from investigating the house and its surrounds. I do have some trepidation for the dogs that run free on the mountainside, especially my beloved Angel (see old blog post), but from the size and the time of year, it is probably a juvenile exploring the area, and it will fear the dogs too much to attempt an attack or make this a permanent territory.
That brings me to the events of today, well, today and the last several days. For a few days now, about mid-afternoon the dogs up and down the mountain have been going crazy with excited barks and anxious yelps. Several have taken to chasing something through the woods down below my home. I can’t see them, but from the sounds, I can track their movement as they drive their prey along the fence lines.
Sandra and I have speculated that it was, in fact, our neighborhood bear being tormented by the dogs. So today as I worked on a couple of expedites, the dogs took up the chase again. Their agitated calls summoned my big, brave Sebastian to go out front and interpret the language of his brothers.
And then there was a single large caliber rifle shot.
Sebastian ran to cower under my chair, and the other dogs went silent.
I can’t say for sure what was shot, but I will be listening intently for my driveway alarm in the days that follow.