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Old 10-17-2006, 10:30 PM   #31
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Originally posted by RavenBlue
I like bears. As long as you respect them and keep out of their way.. they'll usually keep out of yours.

This is true. Funny how we humans can upset that balance. I'm speaking of me, as well. I came very close to being lunch meat for a bear last spring. My dog was with me, so I guess she would have been the appetiser! We were hiking up a local mountain that's used for skiing in the winter. As we were making our way down an access road, we went around a very tight corner. I was kind of jogging, while Coco was trailing behind. Everything was great....then I hear the roar. I quickly look up to see a mother Black Bear with two baby cubs tagging along behind her. Needless to say, I froze instantly. I then glanced down to see Coco at my side...her beady little eyes staring at the bears, then at me for an answer.

Anyway, the bears jolted, and ran into the woods faster than I've ever seen anything was truly incredible. Meanwhile, we were still there, with our brains processing the options for escape. We could either continue down the access road, which would mean walking right past the place the bears just ran into (where they were surely hiding, sharpening their claws, and preparing to make a tossed salad from our remains), or we could go back and follow a route to the bottom by going down a boggy transmission line that was filled with stumps and assorted debris.

We went with option two.

Thankfully, our climb down from that point was bear-free. When we finally got to the bottom, I celebrated by taking Coco through the nearby Tim Horton's drive-through, where we shared a toasted bagel.

It was a huge lesson for me: mainly that I was very stupid to walk up there in the peak of mating season. From what I've since read, Black Bears tend to be weary of humans, and fairly non-threatening. But anything is possible if they feel threatened or cornered.

But, man, were they gorgeous animals. It was the first time I'd seen them in person...amazing

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Old 10-18-2006, 01:21 AM   #32
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We had a similar experience once while hiking with our kids in Ontario, and we did exactly the same thing--retraced our steps and went back the long way, rather than risk completing what little was left of the trail (but might take us right by an anxious mother bear). Black bears actually account for the majority of fatal bear attacks in both Canada and the US, although this is partly just because they're more common. But it's certainly not true (as I've heard some inexperienced hikers claim) that "grizzlies are the aggressive ones" or "black bears always run from people." ANY bear is potentially dangerous, especially a mother with cubs. And while grizzly charges often turn out to be a bluff, a black bear who advances on you is more likely than not to complete the attack. The upright stance bears sometimes adopt is actually not a threat posture; it just means they're trying to get an eye-level look at you--the threat posture would be when they're on all fours and coming at you!

Moving slowly in the opposite direction is always the wisest choice--NEVER run, as this triggers their pursuit instinct. It's also a good idea to exaggeratedly announce your presence (bears don't see well, which unfortunately makes it easier to startle them) by standing tall with arms extended, banding together, and talking or singing loudly (do NOT shout at the bear, however). If the bear does charge, stay still, and make sure your human and animal companions do the same. If worst comes to worst and they attack, with a grizzly, you should drop to a fetal position, protect your head and "play dead," which usually kills their interest; if it's a black bear on the other hand, you should fight back with whatever you have on hand, aiming for their nose area (some hikers carry pepper spray for this purpose, although I don't know if I'd trust myself to aim it properly under those circumstances!). Never attempt to fight a grizzly, and never attempt to play dead with a black bear. (The best way to tell them apart, as fur color and size vary widely, is to go by the snout. Black bears have a long, doglike snout, while grizzlies have a short, snubby one.)

Hiker geek stuff

And you're right, they are beautiful animals.

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Old 10-18-2006, 09:36 AM   #33
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Mother animals of any species are usually the most dangerous.
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Old 10-18-2006, 05:52 PM   #34
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Hiker Geeks

Thanks for those tips, Yolland.

The pepper spray suggestion is a great one, just to be on the safe side.

My close encounter was so close that I was initially hesitant to venture up the mountain again. I eventually convinced myself that in order to deal with the fear, I had to try it again, but with a greater awareness. The second time I went up, I carried a large stick and yelled out loud every so often on the road down. It must have worked, because I barely saw any kind of wild animal (I'm sure the U2 songs I was singing out loud and butchering might have helped, as well).

I went 30 years without seeing a bear up close, and I might never see one again...I think they're fairly scarce here. I've always felt a deep connection with nature, and this experience just underscored the fact that we're simply bit players in big scheme of things.

I don't recommend going head-to-head with a bear, but it definitely makes you think.
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Old 10-19-2006, 11:31 PM   #35
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