Friday, May 29, 2015


Last summer at the North Rim, and it's hard to believe it will be a year next week that we went there, we kept springing leaks in our sewer hose. Yes. Gross. They're not expensive, but they're also not free, and it bugged me that we had to replace a couple one right after another. We sprung for a heavier-duty one and it too developed holes, so back it went. (We, meaning HH, rinsed it out before boxing it up.) It took us a while, but we eventually concluded that it was ravens looking for water that were the culprit. I don't know that we ever saw any pecking away, but we nonetheless pinned it on them. They are smart animals, no doubt about it. The question then was, what were we going to do to keep them from continuing their bad behavior? 

Reluctantly I adopted a Sanford and Son approach, the only thing we could think of: we encircled the hose with lengths of aluminum stove pipe and resorted to zip-tying them on because, as I said, ravens are smart. It was pretty embarrassing to have a junkyard ambiance but that's what it took, and it worked.

Surprisingly, we had no problem with ravens at Death Valley despite less water there than at the North Rim, so fast forward to Yosemite. Here, I had to sign a paper saying I'd abide by the rules pertaining to animals, specifically bears. The saying is, A fed bear is a dead bear, and the stories abound. HH's son David told me about bears somehow learning that VW Beetles, known to humans for being airtight, could be popped open like a paper bag by jumping on them. Cheryl Koehler, in her book Touring the Sierra Nevada, says a Ranger told her that bears learn to recognize vehicle models that are easy to break into, and if one found food in a red car, that color car would be a target for weeks. Smart like a raven.

Signs at parking lots around the Valley say to leave just about everything out of sight, including baby wipe packages, coolers, and grocery bags, because bears have come to associate them with food found in vehicles. Hanging food from trees is no longer a solution in the backcountry; instead, a bulky and so far bear-proof canister must be used. The top is opened with a coin or something similar. And not just food has to be stored this way: toothpaste, deodorant, or scented anything has to be sealed away.
"Bear resistant food storage canister 1"
by Cullen328 Jim Heaphy - Own work. 

I saw a small sign in the building I work in about bears' diets in the wild versus the dangers of food items left around residential areas:

Dumpsters everywhere here have chutes that lock closed with clips. Throughout the park in parking lots, tent camping areas, some trailheads, and at the rear of our parking spot are heavy-duty steel food storage boxes with drop fronts that fasten closed with clips. They too have so far been bear-resistant. One of them holds our two small coolers. I had the large cat food bag in there too until I discovered that the boxes aren't insect-proof. Other items that need to go in, if we don't have room inside the house, even include canned goods because of odors from the packaging process that cling to them.

I didn't use them at first but got religion after an episode one night. We used the propane grill for a couple of steaks and I didn't store it when I finished with it. That night I heard a small aluminum table the grill was sitting on go over but I was drifting off to sleep and didn't get up. The next morning I found the grill strewn around. A jug of vinegar I'd left on the picnic table that I was going to use to descale some plumbing fittings was punctured and drained, and a plastic jug of cat litter that was sitting under the house had two big puncture holes in its side (but not tipped over; I'm still trying to picture how that happened).

One morning last weekend HH called to me to come quickly; there was a bear out the back window, just wandering the yard. I grabbed the camera only to remember that I had removed the card to transfer pictures to the computer, and I scrambled to pop another one in just in time to see the animal, tagged and collared, slowly moving away after cruising by the bear boxes. Our own personal bear paid us another visit in hopes we continued to disregard the rules. Not anymore. 

Later we noticed that the sewer hose was shredded. I wondered how desperate the bear could be if it needed to get into that nasty thing but then realized the kitchen sink also drains through it, carrying any small food particles that go out with the wash water. HH patched it up, pulled out the stove pipe from the storage compartment, and we now again look like Sanford and Son. I have no illusions that these flimsy sections of aluminum will deter this animal. They're not even zip tied on.


Thought of the day: