Their property is a five-acre rural paradise backed by snow-covered mountain peaks. Complete with a bountiful vegetable, fruit tree and flower garden, the land also features a state-of-the-art wire-fenced chicken home for one cocky rooster and his harem of free-range hens that produce fresh eggs daily. Mr. Rooster needs to strut around to protect his hens. In the Spring, a wily fox had entered the pen leaving behind feathers and broken-hearted children. The one surviving hen was named 'Lucky'.
Bear, beautiful gray in colour, is the older cat. Almost five years now. Hunter extraordinaire. At times he drops his dead prey at the side door of the wide overhanging deck: a muskrat from the on-site pond. Field mice galore. Feathers from his latest flying (didn’t-take-off-fast-enough) victim. Despite the bell tied around his neck, Bear reigns supreme on his land. Neighbours (how close is a neighbour to a five-acre homestead?) confirm that with Bear roaming the area, their mice population has disappeared.
Cookie, wearing a tuxedo-look-alike coat, is not yet one year. Like all kittens, he is busy honing his hunting skills. He crouches. Waits. An insect flies by. Cookie launches his attack. Misses. Oh well. He also pounces on field mice. Alas, whereas Bear eats his prey, Cookie tends to play with it. The kids are not pleased.
Cookie does not mess with the large, brown-eyed deer families. Bear is nowhere to be seen. He is hunting more accessible game.
We explore the rocky shores at the fork where the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers merge. The kids build rock people, like Inukshuks. They create rock patterns, decorated with different coloured rocks. They skip flat stones in the fast-flowing water. A perfect summer afternoon pastime.
And that’s when we see him. He sees the kids by the water. He does not see us, hidden in tall grass, behind him.
A black (silver) fox. A beauty. Pointed perky ears. On his way to the water. He notices the commotion by the little people at the river edge. Stops. We watch him watch them. His front paw is poised in mid-air, as if to continue his silent trek. His silver-tipped tail behind him wafts loftily in the air. He sits and watches the kids. We sit and watch him.
A perfect wildlife moment.
But the pièce de resistance awaits at home. We are gathered in an open space between the front door of the house and art studio.
“Bear! Bear!” shouts our 8-year-old sweet miss, pointing through the open space.
“What’s Bear up to now?” we wonder aloud.
“NO. Not Bear. BEAR-BEAR!” she repeats.
We dash to the wide deck that overlooks the pond and firepit on the side of the house with the snow-covered mountain in the background.
Yes, there he is! By the picnic table. Near the saskatoon berry bushes. He doesn’t care that a strange human family watches him with excitement: snapping photos, exclaiming, pointing, whispering, oohing and awing, jockeying for the best viewing position.
The young black bear continues to swoosh, swipe and pull down the bushy branches, somehow managing to scarf down those delicious saskatoon berries. To our delight, he continues to forage and munch the saskatoons completely ignoring his captive audience.