Dave Simpson: Bug Spray, Dish Soap And A Wine Chaser

Columnist Dave Simpson writes, "A mischievous bear is tearing things up in my neck of the Snowy Range this summer, and folks up there are on edge about it."

Dave Simpson

July 01, 20244 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A mischievous bear is tearing things up in my neck of the Snowy Range this summer, and folks up there are on edge about it.

Reports keep coming in.

At my place (about midway between Elk Mountain and Centennial), a piece of T-111 plywood siding was pried loose – pretty clearly by a bear  – exposing spice shelves I built between the wall studs. Bottles of paprika, steak seasoning, salt, pepper, powdered garlic, chili powder – kitchen stuff - were spread out on the deck outside, some consumed, some cast aside, some stepped on.

A bottle of the food coloring I use for the hummingbird feeders was among the kitchen detritus.

Like my father used to say about my bedroom, everything was “spread out like a dog's breakfast.”

What a mess.

And there was an empty bottle of cooking oil, so the bear had a nice slug of that after sampling the spices. Probably kept him regular.

The mess continued inside the cabin, but the opening in the siding wasn't  big enough for a bear to squeeze through. Something else – we suspect a pine marten – got inside and tore up jack in there. Something bigger than a squirrel, smaller than a bear. Still a mystery.

On a window sill there was a can of mosquito spray – 40 percent DEET – with punctures  made by teeth. Must have tasted awful, and the stuff that leaked out took the oil-based paint clear off the window sill. Think about that next time you spray that stuff on your arms.

A can of bear spray on a shelf was not touched. What a mess that would have made had our visitor punctured the can. (I bought that can in Saratoga years ago, but the clerk said she preferred a .44 under her pillow for bear protection. Bears were getting into cabins and tearing things up in Ryan Park that year.)

A half-full bottle of Dawn dish washing soap on the kitchen sink also had a tooth mark on the side, so our mystery critter got a taste of that as well.

And on the floor was what was left of a box of cheap wine, torn open, spilling wine on the floor and making the place smell like a seedy bar. (Felt like I was in college again.)

Across the road, a neighbor camps when he visits in August, and leaves all his stuff in two big construction tool boxes But last summer he forgot to lock them. Two weeks ago one box was turned on its side, and kitchen utensils, paper plates, paper towels, pots, pans, and tools were spread out on the ground. The next week I noticed that the second tool box had been overturned as well.

So, the bear had been back for a second visit that very week. Unbroken was a glass gallon jug of Mogen David wine.

Down the road, near the river, a bear tore shutters off a neighbor's cabin, got into the kitchen, but left without doing much additional damage.

And just this past Thursday night, a neighbor's game camera showed a bear climbing up on the porch of a cabin about 100 yards from my place, at about 2 a.m.

The interesting thing about this is that in the 43 years I've been spending summers on my little plot of land, I've spotted exactly one bear – a cinnamon bear about 50 yards away on a Forest Service road. He saw me about the same time I saw him, and he disappeared into the woods.

That's it. One bear in over four decades. But suddenly one is tearing the siding off my cabin. A neighbor who hunts suggested that less hunting in Colorado may have resulted in more of the critters down there, and some  migrating into Wyoming. A game warden here hopes more people in the area for summer will convince our bear to move on. Or they might have to trap and move him.

In the meantime, the mess at my place is cleaned up. That can of bear spray is at the ready, along with my .20-gauge.

And I fastened the siding back to the studs, this time using deck screws instead of nails.

Next time, our bear's gonna need a screwdriver to get in.

Dave Simpson can be reached at: DaveSimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson

Political, Wyoming Life Columnist

Dave has written a weekly column about a wide variety of topics for 39 years, winning top columnist awards in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.