Black bear pays a visit
It wasn't necessarily an easy sell at the time.
Shawn Augustine was trying to convince his wife that living on the outskirts of Prineville near Ochoco Lake is perfectly safe. Wildland creatures won't bother her or harm her.
So Candice agreed to make the move from bustling, urban Las Vegas, Nevada, to a property near milepost 24 of Highway 26 East — a property situated in a location offering a view of the dam from the front window.
"The property has been in my family since 1968," said Shawn, who grew up in Crook County before venturing away at age 20 for college and a few other stops before meeting Candice in Sin City. "I have been coming here and hunting here my whole life, fishing on Ochoco (Lake) my whole life."
Six years after trading city life for the rural spread, Candice had dealt with few critters, save for some occasional raccoons. Shawn was confident that would never change.
"I have been telling her for years that raccoons aren't going to bother you. Cougars aren't going to stalk you. Everything's fine."
But then something happened that forced him to abandon that line and adjust his own expectations of what might come lurking around the property.
It all started one Saturday in late October when the couple noticed a garbage bag uprooted and strewn across a portion of the property. Shawn is completing some housework and filling a trailer with construction scraps. Normally, the couple had kept kitchen garbage out of the trailer and stored in a spot further across the property, but as Candice puts it, she cheated.
"I put a garbage bag in there."
"And it was out," Shawn had discovered Saturday morning, staring out the back window as he enjoyed a cup of coffee. "I'm looking at it, and I know this isn't a raccoon. There is a dog about a half-mile away that has been in our yard, so I assumed that's what it was."
But the next morning, he faced an even bigger disturbance. Once again, looking out the window, morning coffee in hand, he wondered, "What is all over the hill?" Finding his glasses to get a clearer look, he finally discovered another much larger mess, one that spanned a large portion of his back property.
Candice went outside and started to pick up the trash when Shawn remembered he could check footage from a security system installed on the property. So he retreated to the basement and starting combing through the video.
Before much time passed, Shawn spotted the culprit – a black bear.
"I'm watching, and I see the head come literally one foot from the camera," he recalls. More footage revealed the bear roaming the property, sometimes with a familiar white kitchen bag dangling from its mouth.
"How am I going to tell her?" Shawn wondered. "I am going to have to go down and confront her and tell her there's a bear."
And she wasn't the only person he needed to relay the story to. Shawn called neighbors who were not convinced until he produced video evidence. He also called Fish and Wildlife personnel and Oregon State Police.
"I don't think they believed me," he remarked, adding that bears typically spend their time at higher elevations than the approximately 3,000 feet of his property.
With Candice scared and unwilling to go outside at night, Shawn recently decided to confront the bear.
"My whole idea was going out there, confronting it and getting it to leave or to dispatch it," he said.
Firearm in tow, Shawn went out to face the intruder, one that he discovered had no interest in dealing with humans.
"He would run and hide. He was behind a tree doing this," he explained, pretending to poke his head out from behind a tree. "I think this bear is pretty cagey."
Then, Shawn said he made a loud noise in hope of scaring the bear away. It apparently worked. He remembers the animal quickly running away into the darkness. Candice remembers it hastily scurrying up a tree.
More than a week has passed since the bear sighting. And while he doesn't know for sure, Shawn thinks he may have scared it off for good.
"The bear has not returned," he said.