Cousin Jeannie & The Bear Lady of Sahalee

May 30, 2014 | 3 comments

Bear in the Meadow

Bear in the Meadow

Yesterday we ran into some friends who live up in Sahalee and, as you might expect, the conversation turned to their neighborhood’s current concerns with the Bear Lady. Like others who love where they live (and what’s not to love about Sahalee with its gorgeous homes and to-die-for views of the river and ocean and Baker’s Bay?), they are flummoxed by this woman’s beliefs and actions.

It’s not only that she feeds the bears by the 600-pound-bagsful of dog food in her own backyard. She also has purchased several other properties nearby and has let their gardens go to hell with blackberries growing in profusion – for the bears, of course. She is trying to make up to the wild critters of the area for their increasingly diminished habitat she says.

Chinook Observer Photograph

Rescue Operation – Chinook Observer Photograph

It’s not that she hasn’t been warned before and it’s not as if the unkindness she’s doing to the bears has not been explained and re-explained… all to no avail. Bottom line: she is breaking the law and will be prosecuted. That’s one jury I’d like to sit on! (And don’t tell me her heart is in the right place, either.) I hope they throw the book at her. But, even so, she’s likely to just get a big fine (which apparently she can afford) and, if past actions are an indicator, she’ll go back to her feeding frenzy.

The situation makes me think about the whole problem of living in proximity with others, individual property rights, social responsibility and even more complicated issues. We run into bits and pieces of that in Oysterville – the neighbors who don’t take care of their buildings, those who don’t like the way we’ve tended our yard, and… the complaints go on. As we’ve always known, it’s impossible to legislate good taste or good sense. That’s a given in the human condition.

Gordon’s Cousin Jeannie was living here on the Peninsula when I first arrived in the seventies. She owned a little house in Ocean Park, worked for the Port of Peninsula and was part of our picnic group. Jeannie was incredibly bright and eternally funny, but she was ‘different.’ Living in proximity with others and by rules made for ‘the greater good’ was difficult for her. So, about the time she began collecting her social security, she took off. Gordon would hear about her now and then from her ‘kids’ who kept track of her (somehow) by where she cashed checks.

Bear on the Move at CranMac

Bear on the Move at CranMac

For years she camped in the National Parks of Washington and Oregon – even when they closed for winter. Gordon said she worked out a deal with park personnel to do low-grade maintenance like litter pick-up in exchange for camping privileges. I sort of expected Jeannie to show up at Gordon’s memorial celebration. Relatives say she is still alive and living her own brand of alternative lifestyle.

When I think of the Bear Lady of Sahalee, I think of Jeannie. Some people just don’t quite fit in. Jeannie found a way to not butt heads with the rest of us. I wish the Bear Lady could figure out a similar scenario for herself – like give all that dog food money to Fish and Wildlife and move into the deep dark woods where she could live on terms more to her liking. Or maybe that’s not it at all… Maybe it’s about something deep in her psyche and has nothing to do with bears.  But… it does now.


  1. Nancy

    The second to the last sentence….Maybe it’s something deep in her psyche and has nothing to do with bears…..My mentor, C.G. Jung, is nodding his head, smiling in approval of your “maybe”….

    • sydney

      Unhappily, even if that’s the case, it’s of no help to the bears…

  2. Kathleen Shaw

    Well, she apparently was arraigned on Wednesday–perhaps she has family who can be convinced that she needs to have a guardian assigned to her. I can’t help but wonder if, from her comments, she’s got a houseful of animals (inside, I mean) and is a bit of a hoarder in general. Many animal hoarders think they’re treating their animals well when the truth is the animals are miserable and in terrible shape–the s0-called “crazy cat ladies”.


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