Cattle turning into bears!! What???

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Cattle turning into bears….Oh My!

Back in 2008, I enrolled in an art workshop in Montana.  We decided to turn it into a family vacation as well.  Road trip!!  We decided to allow a few days to drive to Montana so we could see the sites along.  We rented a vehicle since we knew we were going to be traveling a fair amount of miles (over 5300 in two weeks to be exact!)  We packed up the kids (who were both teenagers at the time), packed up the car and away we went.  We felt like the Griswolds on family vacation!  This little trip proved to be a string of adventures for the Brown family!

Our ultimate destination was to be a guard station cabin in the Tally Lakes/Star Meadows area of Montana.  We found the cabin located off of a rural road, miles from town.  It was such a peaceful scene, surrounded by some level, bottom, ground sprinkled with pine trees and scrub brush with a creek/river running through it.  There were mountains on the backside of the creek and mountains to the front of the cabin……mountains everywhere—perfect!   A rail fence enclosed the “yard” with pine trees towering above the parking area and hiding view of the road from the cab

in.  Upon exploring a bit more, we learned that the field was the temporary home to a herd of cattle.

There was electricity to the cabin but no running water or indoor plumbing.  There was however, a new water hand-pump located outside for potable water and a new vaulted toilet with a concrete floor and a “stall” where a solar shower could be hung.  I’m not sure my children realized what a vaulted toilet was until we got there and they realized they were going to have to go outside and walk about 30 yards to use the facilities.  We kept a flashlight in the stall as well as one in the cabin for just such occasions, however, my daughter resolved that she would not be going out there unless it was daylight!  She proceeded to tell us that knew there was a possibility of seeing bears—she saw the sign and brochure about bear safety in the cabin.  Even during daylight, when she had to walk out there by herself, she hustled!  I tried to reassure her that the cattle in the backyard would more than likely alert her if anything was around.  She still didn’t find that too comforting.  Maybe it was partially because they all kept joking that “bear safety” meant that they just had to outrun the slowest person in the family and then they all laughed and looked at me.  And thanks to all of the teasing I received, I told her I would not be escorting her to the “facilities”.  Chels did luck out however, we were far enough north that the days seemed to be pretty long and there was an abundance of daylight.

It seemed like it was never completely dark until about 11PM and then daylight seemed to hit around 6AM.  Between the light and the very loud serenade sung by the coyote choir every night, and the chill in the cabin, it took a few nights to actually get some quality sleep.  Not that I was complaining—it was beautiful there….just that with the combination of me giving up caffeine before we left and the lack of sleep, I had regular headaches for days.  We did eventually figure out that one of the windows had been left open in the cabin…..causing the chill and our blankets to never be enough!  That seemed to cut down on the volume of the nightly coyote choir as well.  The lack of sleep did finally catch up with me and with the new found warmth and quiet, I slept in one morning.  The hub didn’t—he awoke early to see some cowboys driving the cattle out of our “backyard” and down the road to their next home.  I was a little upset that he didn’t wake me to watch but understood why he didn’t.

Since the cattle were now gone, we decided that evening that we would explore more of the backyard.  We found the remains of a couple of whitetail fawns that had apparently been dinner for some of the “choir” a few nights ago.  We also discovered that what we called a “creek” was rather deep and very cold and that it was a little further from the cabin that we’d thought.  We walked a bit further and found a whitetail doe, dead, in the creek.  We’re not exactly sure what her cause of death was but it was definitely evident that there was predator activity around.  Given that fact, the whole time we explored, I tried to keep an eye out for said predators—I love to explore the wilderness but I’m a bit paranoid about something that could potentially make a meal outta me, catching me by surprise and gnawing a limb off before I knew what hit me.  I know, call me crazy, but my imagination runs wild sometimes and I knew we were in bear and mountain lion country….something we really do not have to worry about back home.  My hub seemed to find my paranoia entertaining and took every chance he got to slip out of my sight and make noises, break sticks and watch me jump.  Not funny, not funny at all!

The next morning, Chels woke up and had to use the facilities but it wasn’t light enough yet, so, she danced around the cabin until there was enough light.  As soon as she felt it was light enough to make a clean break for the toilet, she darted out of the cabin, running fast enough to reach the toilet before anything could possible get her.  As she was coming out she noticed something black, furry, and rather large moving through some of the brush off to the backside of the toilet.  She watched for a bit and then decided to make a run for it.  She came barreling in the cabin, eyes wide, breathing hard, and obviously scared.  We started questioning her and she proceeded to tell us she’d just seen a bear.  With that news, the hub and I walked outside armed with the binoculars to check it out.  After a bit of investigation, we did find Chels’ bear……..it happened to be a black angus cow and calf that had apparently missed the earlier roundup and were left behind.  There were coming up to the cabin in an effort to find the rest of the herd.  The owners did come back later and gather the stragglers….turned out there were a few more than just that pair.  In Chels’ defense, it was fogging in the bottom that morning, foggy enough to turn cattle into bears!

 

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