jayellebee's Blog

May 12, 2010

Bobcats and Lions and Bears. Oh, My!

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 4:26 pm

     Our new home in Nevada City, California, is situated on four plus acres of oak studded natural beauty.  Expanses of granite rise from the soil like land-locked hump back whales preparing to blow.  I can’t see another building from our house, unless I’m on the second floor, standing just-so, looking right… over…  there!  

     The woman who sold us this little bit of Eden sprinkled bear-related decorations about the grounds.  Stepping stones in the shape of giant paw prints wander past the garage.   A garden bench in the shape of a bear invites the weary to rest.  Wind chimes sound as cubs knock against their mother.  So, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when the seller took time to demonstrate how the “bear proof” latch on the gate to our backyard works.  I tossed her a questioning glance.  After all, we weren’t moving to the mountains, or to an area as rural as first impressions might suggest.  Nevada City is perched in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, elevation 2650 feet, and our house is only a mile from “downtown.”

     “Why did you install a ‘bear proof’ latch?” I asked.

     “Because,” she looked to make sure I wasn’t joking, then shrugged, “we have bears here.”

     Shouldn’t the presence of bears be disclosed in real estate documents?  I mean, if sellers are supposed to alert potential buyers to neighborhood problems like land fill odors and rampant vandalism, shouldn’t someone have told me about the bears before escrow closed?  I stayed alert to sounds emanating from the native shrubs during the remainder of our walk-through.

     Several days passed before we met our first neighbors.  I’m guessing people who choose to live in an area mandating a four-acre minimum lot size don’t long for close contact with other humans.  Whatever the reason, the couple across the lane from our driveway proved to be welcoming and pleasant people. 

     “Have you seen the lion?”  the woman asked me.

     My brain was fuzzy from unpacking boxes.  Stale cardboard-scented air must have an oxygen deficiency.  I pictured an African lion, complete with wild, flowing mane.

     “Lion?” I managed to whisper.

     “She’s beautiful,” my neighbor gushed.  “The hills behind our house are BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.  Our mountain lion’s territory brings her through here regularly.  In fact,” she tugged on my arm, pulling me a few steps to the side, “if you look right… through… those trees you can see her den.”

     Shadow, our black lab, chose that moment to strain at the end of her leash, nose testing for interesting scents.  I bent to rub her back, taking comfort in the heavy musculature of her shoulders.   My neighbor studied us.

     “The lion won’t bother you,” she said.  “But if you’re walking the dog at dawn or dusk, you should be aware of your surroundings.”

     Dawn won’t be a problem.  There are only two things I choose to be aware of at dawn.  My dreams, and the warmth of my bed.  Dusk?  Note to self:  Be inside by dusk.  And lock the lion-proof door.

     I met my next neighbor a week later – a lovely lady about my age walking (midway between dawn and dusk) with binoculars swinging from her neck.  We introduced ourselves and discovered our properties abut one another.  In the strange way this small world of ours works, we also determined we have mutual friends in the San Francisco Bay Area.

     “I saw a bobcat in my driveway this morning,” she told me, excitement punctuating her words. 

     “Early?” I asked, hoping for an affirmative answer.

     “Not too,” she said.  My heart rate accelerated.  “About 6:30.”

     Ah, good.  That must be close to dawn.  The bobcat and I may never set eyes upon one another.

     My husband and I settled into our new home.   The pile of empty boxes grew, as did the length of our to-do list.  Deep, restful sleep rewarded our hard work until one morning, well before dawn, when I was awakened by the muffled sound of something bumping the side of the house.  My bare feet shuffled from warm carpet to cold tile.  The sound came from outside our bathroom, near the bear-proof gate latch.  I peeked out the window into utter darkness.  Nothing visible, but the sound was more distinct.  And very close.  I roused my sleeping mate, knowing he would think this another of my legendary dreams if he didn’t hear the frightening noise himself.

     I led him to the shower.  We stood there, together, listening to a phantom sound in the cold morning air.  Ken switched on the outside lights, sure the glare would chase the intruder away.  The erratic thumping continued.  We tried to observe the cause from various places.  Nothing to see from right… here.  Or there.  Nothing at all.  But the sound went on, unconcerned with our presence.

     We returned to the warmth of our bed and faded back to sleep, believing if whatever we’d heard wasn’t threatened by us, it couldn’t be a  threat to us.  The morning light revealed the culprit.  The vent for our bathroom fan is outside, next to the shower wall.  The nighttime breeze had employed the flapper to provide accompaniment to our dreams.  Ken’s to-do list grew by one item.   “Fix the damn flapper.”

     To date I’ve observed no animals more exotic than lizards and squirrels.  Oh, I should mention the rooster and hens which roam the streets undeterred between dawn and dusk.  Talk about “cage free.”  Now, there’s something you don’t see in the city!



  1. That has to be the COOLEST thing about living in Nevada City. Now I want to move there too! Keep your binoculars handy . . . and your camera!

    Comment by lizbooks — May 12, 2010 @ 6:31 pm | Reply

  2. Terrific tale! Well written and full of humor. I love it! I’d jump to the same conclusion if my new neighbors mentioned big game in the area. I love having wildlife around but would want them to stay wild and out of my way. Glad you have that bear-proof latch!

    Bee 🙂

    Comment by Bee Hylinski — May 17, 2010 @ 10:36 am | Reply

  3. What a charming tale and so well told. Good suspense. I love the image of cage-free chickens and black lab Shadow strolling the streets together, oblivious to the dangers lurking. I look forward to the story where lion strolls onto the road ahead of you.

    Comment by Jean G — June 11, 2010 @ 5:20 pm | Reply

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