Bear ways

Recent Posts

Die Grünen hybrider Kongress 2021

Hybrid courses

In the summer of 2021, I had the pleasure of attending a hybrid congress in Berlin: Die Grünen were kicking off their election campaign. The

Read More »


It’s the end of summer, we’re back home from long days in the sun and on the water, and it’s back to classes and many

Read More »

Talk at BESIG 2021 for Cornelsen

Managing your hybrid course with Cornelsen’s Basis for Business Summary This 30-minute talk aimed to give Business English trainers an overview of lessons learned in

Read More »

bearIt’s all my fault. We had a bear visit our cabin the other day. It was in the early evening, the sun was still up and I was down by the water when I heard some loud thumps up in the woods, and thought, “Hey, that’s funny, maybe our neighbor has come back early.”

The next day I saw that our trashcan had been turned over, and the contents shredded. The whole place stank. Clearly  case of hungry bear. And I remembered: Five days previously I had taken some leftover hamburger meat and put it in a plastic bag, knotted it securely, and put it in a heavy plastic trashcan with a lid on it. Well, the bear was able to smell through the can and the bags, and spared no energies to rip everything apart just to get at that little bit of hamburger.

Now, I really should know better. We used to have terrible trouble with black bears on Drummond Island. They came regularly to the cabins to pick through the trash. The island had an open dump, and the bears used to climb all over the garbage, cutting their paws on the glass and tin. And it was a sport for tourists to drive out in their trucks, shine the headlights at the bears, and take pictures. The bears got used to people, and that’s not good for people or bears.

A story is told on the island that one day a bear broke into a cabin, coming in through the screen door, and took a baby who was playing on the floor. Now, that may be a legend. I’m not sure. But the story was told around the time that the island found a solution to the problem. The local government closed the dump, and instead installed a pay-by-the-bag trash compressor. You buy the bags individually for $2.50 a piece, or buy ten and get a little discount. In addition, they set up a free recyling container for paper, metal, plastic, and glass that is taken over to the recycling plant on the mainland once a week. People started composting biodegradable trash (or: organic waste) on their property. And we learned to put any meat leftovers in a bag in the freezer until it was time to take the trash to the compressor. The bear problem stopped immediately, and the bears went back to their natural ways.

Having a bear visitor reminded me of how delicate the balance is between our ways and the wilderness we love to be in. It’s not just regarding big animals. For instance, after a summer of people using the shower and washing machine at the cabin, our septic tank started smelling. It needs to be primed with bacteria from time to time to counterbalance the detergents that we’re putting in.

If you can get things like bears and bacteria taken care of, the rewards are so great. Going out in the kayak one morning at sunrise, paddling between the smaller islands in the bay, I got very close to a loon, a shy waterbird typical of the northwoods, whose cry sounds like crazy (or “loony“) laughter. We circled each other for a few minutes, and he sang his song, until he lost interest and dove off. And on my last morning down by the water, I met two deer who flapped their big ears at me and warily let me pass.


Now I’m back home and terribly jetlagged. That’s it. I’m off to bed. Work will just have to wait until tomorrow. Let’s see how long it will be before I have to give up my bear ways.

Learning the ropes

ways – Gewohnheiten
the other day – vor einigen Tagen
thump – dumpfer Schlag
trashcan (AE) – Mülleimer (BE: rubbish bin)
shredded – zerfetzt
previously – vorher
leftover, leftovers – übrig, Reste
hamburger meat (AE) – Hackfleisch; also: mincemeat, ground meat
to knot – verknoten
lid – Deckel
dump – Müllhalde
garbage – Müll
paws – Pfoten
tin – Blech (AE: cans are made of tin; BE: tins are made of tin)
headlights – Scheinwerfer
screen door – Tür mit Fliegengitter
trash compressor – Müllverdichtungsanlage
discount – Rabatt
plant – Anlage
mainland – Festland
biodegradable – biologisch abbaubar
organic waste – Biomüll
a property – Grundstück
septic tank – Faulgrube
to prime – präparieren
bacteria – Bakterien
counterbalance – ausgleichen
detergent – chemische Washmittel
loon, loony – Wasservogel, verrückt
deer (s.=pl.) – Reh, Rehe
warily – vorsichtig
jetlagged – übernächtigt

Tip of the week is a nice new one-stop destination site for travelers to the USA. It is a joint venture by the Travel Industry Association and the US Department of Commerce. The website automatically switches to French, German, Spanish or Japanese depending on where you are surfing from. If you want to surf in English, use the Canadian address, … and dream and plan.

learning english – englischlernen – learning english – englischlernen


One Response

  1. Diese spannende Nachricht mit Bild bekam ich von Peter Driessen über seine Begegung mit Bären auf freier Wildbahn in Alaska:

    Foto: Peter Driessen

    “Den Bären auf der Felslandschaft haben mein Sohn und ich am oberen Punkt des Exit-Glacier wenige Meilen nördlich von Seward auf der Halbinsel Kenai im Kenai Fjords N.P. gesehen. Der andere verbaute uns zunächst unseren Rückweg in der Nähe eines Campgrounds am Skilak Lake, ebenfalls auf Kenai. Dort hatten wir bereits morgens während unseres Frühstücks vielleicht zehn Meter hinter unserem Wohnmobil einen jungen Schwarzbären gesehen. Beim Aufstieg auf den Berg hatten anschließend zunächst meine Frau einen, anschließend mein Sohn einen Black Bear gesehen. Ob das der war, der uns zunächst den Rückweg versperrte, wissen wir nicht – die sehen sich doch alle sehr ähnlich;-) Erst nachdem wir uns mit Rufen und Klatschen bemerkbar gemacht hatten, ging er ein paar Meter weiter, um sich dort an den Beeren zu versuchen.”

    Wow, was für ein Erlebnis! Vielen Dank für das Bild und die Geschichte dazu, Herr Driessen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *