Elected officials all too often expose themselves to embarrassment. But Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin put himself in unusually bare — and bear — peril last week with a blunder that transcended potential political consequences.
As the Burlington Free Press reported, the first-term Democrat said he was awakened late at night by the sound of four bears trying to get food from one of four birdfeeders in the back yard of a house he was renting on the outskirts of Montpelier.
Gov. Shumlin’s account: “I open up the window and yell at them to get away from the birdfeeders. They kind of trot off. I go around to the kitchen to turn the lights on and look from the other side and they’re back in the birdfeeders. So I figure I’ve got to get the birdfeeders out of there or they’re going to make this a habit.”
So the governor bravely — make that recklessly — ventured forth to retrieve those birdfeeders, only to find the bears running toward him with potentially harmful intent.
He reported that an adult male was “probably six feet from me before I slammed the door and it ran the other way.”
Though Gov. Shumlin remains an avid runner at age 56, experts warn that trying to outrun a bear can actually encourage the beast to intensify his pursuit.
The governor conceded that “the lesson is as a Vermonter who grew up in this state and should know better, if you’re going to feed birds at this time of year, bring your birdfeeders in at night.”
But that wasn’t the governor’s only learning experience from that furry intrusion:
“I sleep like many Vermont boys, without too much clothing at night. I’m not a big pajama person. The bottom line is — the bears were dressed better than I and they could have done some real damage.”
So the next time bears show up in your back yard, stay in your house.
And if you foolishly violate that practical rule of nature, please, don’t go outside au naturel.