by Timothy Rutt
Sandy Gillis heard the chickens clucking, with increasing panic, at about 4:30 AM Monday morning.
Gillis, who lives on the 1900 block of Braeburn Road, keeps chickens in a coop at the backyard of the rental house next door, which she also owns.
She went outside with one of her dogs and a cell phone with a flashlight app for illumination. Her other dog had bloodied a chicken earlier in the day, so it wasn't part of the rescue party -- Gillis figured maybe a rat smelled the blood and got into the coop. But judging by the panicked clucking -- and chickens actually shrieking -- she wondered if it was something bigger, like a possum or raccoon.
As she approached, Gillis found the chickens huddled by the coop door -- which they never usually do -- and she heard something in the coop. She opened the door to let the chickens out. The dog lost its nerve, turned tail, and ran home. She went around to the side of the coop and heard a thumping rustle -- "like a fat man bumping into big furniture," she said. Whatever was in the coop had left. And -- under the oak tree some 50 feet away -- there was a bear.
She called to her husband not to come outside, and made it back to the house. The next morning, she found the bear peeled away a section of chicken wire and there was a dead chicken in the coop -- apparently a snack, abandoned when the humans showed up
Gillis has since patched up the coop, but is going to be listening closely to the chickens from now on.