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Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!

Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008, at 9:03 PM

Life became just a little more interesting in Advance and Arbor Monday, when this black bear took a notion to climb a cypress tree about half-way between the two towns. The bear furnished everyone in a three-county radius with an entire day's entertainment, until nightfall, when he was allowed to climb down unseen and disappear into what I hope was an remote area to the north. (Bollinger County sounds like a nice place for a cute little "bear cub..")
Just when I think life in this part of the country is getting terminally boring, something happens to spice things up! Yessiree, Monday's activity was almost as good as when we found the monkey on the back porch back in '79.

It started, as it often does, with a phone call from my "contact" in the sporting world.

"Grab your camera! There's a bear in a tree outside Advance!" he said. How does he always manage to show up right behind me, as I'm driving through Advance? Does he have ESP or what?

Out we sped east on Highway 25 about four miles to a large tree standing right beside the highway, where the gravel cuts off south to the Langco plant. I couldn't miss it, since there were cars and trucks lining the highway, as if we were in the middle of the 100-Mile Yardsale again.

People were standing under a big cypress tree, necks craned, cameras clicking - and there he was, sure enough, looking down at us and yawning sleepily - a big, black bear. He didn't seem excited; in fact, he seemed a bit bored.

I was relieved to see an agent from the Missouri Department of Conservation there, since I had visions of some redneck taking target practice in the trees.

"There were about 60 people standing around the tree when I got here," said the officer. "I almost had a heart attack! I told them to stand back and scatter out, and if the bear started to come down, they needed to run for their cars as fast as they could!" Great, my car was parked up on the highway with all the other dopes, and I'd have had to climb a steep embankment to get to it. I eyed the agent's truck and measured the distance...

One man, who had been driving by when the bear ran across the highway, said it was moving FAST. It came from the north along Highway NN and crossed Gerald and Shirley Owens' land, which faces Highway 25. Everyone said that Gerald was the first one to see it. It must have been frightened by the traffic.

By the time I had taken about a dozen pictures from various angles, another Department of Conservation truck had pulled up with another officer. Eventually, there were four conservation agents and the KFVS camera crew and reporter.

My friend Emma (another goat herder) told me last night that when she and her husband went by the suddenly-famous tree about three p.m., there were two highway patrol cars and a sheriff on the site, along with all the neck-craning crowd. There must have been a long line of cars, because she thought they'd gotten caught in a funeral procession.

Anyway, Officer Ken West explained that the bear was a young male, probably about 1-2 years old. He said that most of the time these young males are chased off by their mothers, who are ready to have another cub.

According to West, most of the department's bear calls come from 4 counties - Bollinger, Wayne, Madison, and Iron. This bear had no business in Scott or Stoddard.

"We'll just wait here until everyone leaves," the officer said, reassuringly. "He'll probably come down when it gets dark. The best thing to do is let them be, unless they're causing property damage."

West explained that they had an incident in Poplar Bluff some time back, when a black bear was in a tree downtown. They shot him with rubber bullets, and it just made him mad. I guess they wanted to keep this guy calm.

My friend Emma said that she and her husband came back by the location at six on their way back from Cape, and there were no observers out there. That must have been when the bear shimmied down and headed out. I'm amazed that someone didn't camp out to watch all night.

That's all I know....except for the usual craziness that crops up afterwards. Someone came into the newspaper office in Advance today and tried to tell me that a local farmer in the region was "missing six cows." However, I haven't found anyone who even knows this supposed farmer. The complainant wants the bear relocated, since she lives on the next farm over. She's really ticked off at the Conservation Dep't. (Does that sound familiar?)

I'd be willing to bet that a black bear's range is extensive - probably as much so as the feral yellow labs (recognized by locals in our area as "cougars"). Unlike cougars, however, the black bears seem to be acknowledged by the Missouri Department of Conservation... Of course, it's a little hard to deny their existance, when one is half-way up a cypress tree, staring down at you.

I didn't hear anyone asking, "Are you sure it wasn't a black lab?"

From the dark and scarey hills of Tillman (about five miles from the bear tree)....this is your wary rural reporter Madeline signing off...

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Hey Ms. Dejournett

I saw your article in the Southeast Missourian today. As one of your former students (MR - 85) it was interesting and refreshing to see your story. I have occupied my night looking up your old blogs. Love your writing style and sense of humor. Especially about the labs and conservation department. If you look at old news reports they were denying bears and armadillos in Missouri quite frequently as well. I have the paper in my favorites now and will check up on your blogs regularly. Just don't check/critique my spelling and grammar if I comment.

-- Posted by cardfan05 on Tue, Jun 3, 2008, at 9:22 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
If you're who I think you are, I doubt that I'll find much wrong with your spelling and grammar! Thanks for posting; it's good to hear from you kids. One of your classmates posted last year & brought back such pleasant memories!

We had a hilarious time with the yellow lab/cougar/conservation dep't blog! I'm glad the whole ridiculous conversation is still out there on the archives. I hope to one day lure Yellow Rose of Essex back on the blogs...

My dogs are absolutely worn out from patroling the goat pen and fending off the feral black labs all night!

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Jun 4, 2008, at 9:30 AM

Goat Lady and MD, you'd better be on the watch,, this black bear may develop a taste for 'goats'......and I've been seeing Armadillo's for years on the roads feet up in the air as if to say 'Why me Lord'.....they shoulda stayed in Texas.

-- Posted by changedname on Thu, Jun 5, 2008, at 11:53 AM

Good one, dexterite.

I heard on the news the other day that one reason armadillos are killed so often on the road is that when a car scares them they jump straight up, thus jumping right into the car rather than hunkering down and letting it go over them.

Another reason may be that they're just not the sharpest tool in the toolbox.

Now that black bear.... Can you imagine the story he would tell his relatives about all those people stopping to see him? It must have looked a lot like the "bear-jams" at Yellowstone.

-- Posted by Ducky on Thu, Jun 5, 2008, at 1:22 PM

Are you sure it wasn't a black lab? Hey, I had to be the first one to ask! lol!

Seriously, this has got to be one of the best stories yet in this area! I'm emailing it to some of my friends and relatives out of state.

-- Posted by swift on Thu, Jun 5, 2008, at 3:33 PM

The shame is that black bears aren't seen in trees every day. There is something sad that it is such a rare occurrence that people stand around gawking like tourists at Disneyland. It reminds me of many moons ago when I lived north of Los Angeles near a place called Placerita Canyon. For some weird reason PC is a large oasis of dense trees and wildlife with a large fast moving artesian spring running through it. Surrounding PC is the brown Southern California desert. PC has a visitors center staffed by volunteers that are mostly retired people. Since it reminded me of greener climes, I went hiking in PC fairly often on weekends. I was talking one day with one of the volunteers who told me that during the week they had a lot of field trips of school kids from Los Angeles. She said that many of these kids were in total wonderment because they had never been out of the city and seen any kind of natural "wilderness." To emphasize the point she said that once when she was serving as the field guide for school kids from Compton (At that time you didn't dare drive through Compton unless you were in an armored car -- or in any vehicle after dark.), a squirrel ran across the trail in front of the kids. One of the boys exclaimed, "Look, it is out of its cage!" These kids had only seen animals at the zoo. They were unaware that putting animals in zoos is unnatural, while them running free is normal. The norm should be to see black bears climbing trees and being a regular part of life -- not for it to be a special event when they make an appearance.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Jun 5, 2008, at 8:19 PM

Several people said that they had never seen a bear before - not even in a zoo. I heard one man say he'd been to Wyoming and Colorado and had never seen a bear; he couldn't believe he was seeing one that close to home!

I'm not missing any goats.....yet!

Can't you see a black lab up in a tree?? Even the MDC agents couldn't explain that!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Jun 5, 2008, at 10:11 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
I heard some interesting new information on the wildlife issue in this area yesterday: A friend who lives between Advance and Zalma told me that the recent floods wiped out a large part of the armadillo population. When the flood waters went down, they found dozens of the creatures lying dead. They were still hibernating (or hiding?) in their dens, and they obviously drowned.

If I can find enough information, I'd like to do a story for the NSC on it.

Poor little creatures - this makes a second unfortunate defense mechanism for them! They are known to leap straight up when frightened - which causes them to jump right into the cars that are driving over them - and now this tendancy to hide, and/or sleep in holes!

I once had a student teacher from the St. Louis area, and he had never seen a pig.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Jun 7, 2008, at 9:37 PM

Yellow Rose!!! Where are you? We now have feral black labs running rampant in SE MO along with the yellow labs. We need your quick wit.

-- Posted by Ducky on Mon, Jun 9, 2008, at 1:36 PM

I tell ya, she's been kidnapped by her hairy-eyeballed boss, who's holding her for ransom! C'mon, bloggers, dig down into yer pockets & come up with some cash to bail 'er out!

Chained to her desk, no doubt...

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Jun 9, 2008, at 10:19 PM

This morning I've realized that both Yellow Rose and Minnie O'Pausal are missing in action!

Could there be a connection? Could some sinister blogger have kidnapped BOTH of them?? Let's see, who could they have offended???

Yellow Rose said some pretty sharp things about the Conservation Department, and they certainly have the means to put her to silence...but Minnie seems singularly innocent of any malice. She mostly made fun of herself! Perhaps secret agents of AARP took offense at her age-ridiculing comments!

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Jun 10, 2008, at 6:42 AM

Maybe it was the Grey Panthers, the more militant arm of the AARP.

-- Posted by Ducky on Tue, Jun 10, 2008, at 11:38 AM

Sounds logical to me.

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Jun 10, 2008, at 9:31 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Well, as you can see, our dear Ducky's comment inspired me to post another Off the Wall blog of my own. Sometimes it helps to just have fun with the news!

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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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