The closest real shopping mall to us is about 40 miles away. The first time I went there, I noticed a sign along the way with a silhouette of a bear on it. A little further along, there was another such sign with the clarifying information, “Bear Crossing Next .7 Miles.” For about 15 miles, there are similar signs along that road. It was a novelty when I first saw it, but, passing it again today, it got me wondering about a few things.
First, how do the bears know where to cross? Can they read the signs? And with such precision! I mean, bears must have a pretty finely tuned sense of direction to know they are supposed to not only cross at a certain point in the highway, but also to know that they are supposed to stop crossing the road in exactly seven-tenths of a mile.
Secondly, what if a bear crosses the street somewhere other than the authorized bear-crossing zone? Is there a fine? Bear jail? And who enforces the bear traffic laws? Is there a bear police force somewhere? And are the bears entitled to free legal representation? By a bear-ister, maybe?
Finally, why do they even have signs telling me about these bear crossings zones? I mean, what am I supposed to do if I am tooling on home from Macy’s one evening and come upon a bear meandering its way across my path? Yield? Of course. After that, what do I do? Sit still and try not to look like a marmalade sandwich?
Bears are a part of living in central Florida. Who knew? I assumed there might be alligators and bugs and snakes. I wasn’t issuing any invitation to the alligators, bugs, and snakes to stop by for a bar-be-cue, but I knew it was possible that I would encounter them. For some reason, I never thought about bears.
I like bears as much as the next person. In fact, I probably like bears more than the next person. I have spent hours upon hours watching bears at zoos. I drove about 200 miles round trip recently to visit Bearadise Ranch, a private home/ranch where a family has been raising bears and training them to work in the entertainment industry for several generations. I personally own about 35 teddy bears (yes, I know that is more than any five-or-six-year-old should own, not to mention more than a 56-year-old should own). Max and I refer to ourselves as the “Bear Family.”
Still, I don’t think I actually want to see a bear in the wild. Or, more precisely, in the what-used-to-be-the-wild. Like my backyard.
My mother said she heard on the news that there was a recent bear sighting within the confines of our town. She thought they said it was on Mason Avenue. Now, unless the bear needed orthodontia or treatment for a random fishing accident or to have his toenails clipped, I am not sure what he was doing on Mason Avenue. Mason Avenue is the main medical drag for our town. The street is literally lined with doctors and dentists and hospitals. It is sometimes difficult even to find space to park a car, much less space to park a bear. There are certainly no “bear crossing” signs on Mason Ave. I’m not sure how a bear even COULD wander into this area. If he did, I am sure he found the whole experience quite disconcerting. I think it must have been like Alice falling down the rabbit hole for the bear. In fact, maybe that’s it. Maybe the bear was chasing a rabbit and fell down the hole and, instead of landing in Wonderland, he landed in MasonMedicalLand.
It turns out that the state of Florida maintains a website that reports bear sightings. There is a listing for each sighting. There is a map with a little red dot for each sighting. I guess this answers the question about what you are supposed to do if you do experience a bear sighting. You are supposed to report it so the nice people at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission can put another red dot on the map. That may or may not be all that helpful. Right now, you can’t even tell where the sightings actually are. There are so many sightings that the map is literally covered with overlapping red dots. The individual sighting listing was more helpful in my quest for information about our native son of a bear. Yes, there was a bear sighting just within the confines of our town, but it was on Old Mason Ave. Old Mason Avenue is a bit more rural and extends a good distance into the far reaches of the town frontier. If the bear actually was looking for orthodontia, I think he was probably out of luck on Old Mason Avenue.
There is still the fact that I am sharing my zip code with at least one bear. There goes the neighborhood. Of course, the bear would say that the neighborhood “left” long ago when the first developer built the first housing community in the area. Who is to say which perspective is correct?
So what are your thoughts? Anyone else have any musings about the “bear necessities?” Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. You can email me at:
Have a just right kind of day!