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Alternative fuel powers bear’s appetite

A black bear peers from a fir tree at the home of Chuck Koch located two miles north of Elgin. - Photo/Chuck Koch
A black bear peers from a fir tree at the home of Chuck Koch located two miles north of Elgin. - Photo/Chuck Koch
Warning: taking creative steps to combat the high cost of gasoline can have unintended consequences.

Just ask Chuck Koch of Elgin.

Koch recently received more than he bargained for because of his efforts to spend less on gasoline — a black bear in his backyard.

The bear stayed about 27 hours.

A black bear, apparently attracted to the vegetable oil Koch uses to run his Dodge pickup, appeared in the backyard of Koch’s home two miles north of Elgin about 10 days ago.

Koch first spotted the bear when he went to his backyard around noon to see why his young black lab was barking.

Then he received the surprise of his life.

Koch walked into his back yard and saw a black bear running up a large fir tree about 10 feet from his house.

“I could not believe it,’’ Koch said.

His dog Violet, age 1, was equally surprised.

“She was going crazy,’’ Koch said.

The next 27 hours drove Koch and his family crazy. The black bear did not leave, staying around the Kochs’ home.

“He was around the tree most of the time.’’

The bear did venture closer to the house several times, once jumping on a barrel Koch stores vegetable oil in to run his Dodge pickup. The bear also found a plastic container which had the remains of some of the vegetable oil Koch uses for his truck. The bear pulled the container away and chewed it.

The presence of the bear made Chuck and his wife, Kathleen, nervous, especially because they had many family members visiting at the time.

“We were going to have a picnic in our backyard but we decided to have it inside instead,’’ Chuck said. “It (the bear) made us pretty nervous.’’

Violet, showing some canine wisdom, also was rattled.

“The dog became more and more realistic. She was more and more afraid,’’ Koch said.

The bear’s nerves seemed anything but rattled.

“He did not seem afraid of people at all,’’ Koch said.

About 3 p.m. the next day, 27 hours after arriving, the bear finally ran away after Koch and his dog stepped carefully into the backyard.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials, who later talked with Koch, told him that the bear was probably about two years old. Bears this young are more likely to come into backyards in the summer and fall, said Enterprise ODFW biologist Pat Matthews. Young bears are not as efficient at finding food and thus are more likely to be come into yards if some type of food is left out, said Matthews, who was not among the ODFW staff members Koch later spoke with.

Matthews said it is a good idea to keep dogs away from bears since bears tend to go up trees after encountering them.

Anyone who has a bear come into their backyard is encouraged to call the ODFW. The ODFW can be reached in La Grande at 963-2138 or in Enterprise at 426-3279.

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