Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In the bears' neighborhood

The bears are waking up.  I imagine them, deep in their secret dens, dark-furred and slow.  They move into the growing daylight in response to an ancient mandate, something we have forgotten in our dependence on electrical light.

When you live where the bears do, you do some things differently.  There are trails I won't hike alone.  I don't run with headphones, especially on the trails at work, where I see their tracks in the mud and where Heather surprised a bear in a place I had just passed by, a bear who must have watched me silently.  On fires we carry bear spray and hang our food. One night, a curious bear circled Danimal and Shane's camp all night.  Unable to sleep, they built up the fire, ran the chainsaw and waited for morning.

"They're more scared of you than you are of them."  "You're more likely to fall in the bathtub than be mauled by a bear."  All true, but I have known people who were attacked by bears.  While happy to be alive, they still had scars that went beyond the physical.  I've had my own encounters: the bear that appeared near my solitary campsite after an 18 mile trail day; the hidden one in the huckleberries who ran, and then, terrifyingly, came back and huffed at me as I inched away.

So now it's time to find the bear spray, to pay more attention in the woods, especially at dawn and dusk.  It means it must finally be spring.



6 comments:

  1. Whoo, that does sound scary! We have the more tame black bears here in the Smokies (and they are smaller over here...averaging around 150lbs). They really are more afraid of you than you are of them, however they will protect their cubs if you spook them, and they will try to be aggressive if it's a ruff acorn year and they are hungry. We don't carry bear spray around here, but we do try to walk and talk noisily as to not spook one. You be careful!!

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    1. I've heard of all the bears you have there!

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  2. That's right you have the big scary bears where you live! Here in Oregon, we have little black bears, but you hardly ever see them, and even if you did, they would run away. I'm more worried about the mountain lions.

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    1. I used to live near Bend and it was nice to hike sometimes and not worry about bears. I feel like I should be worried about lions but I hardly ever see them. I'm sure they see me, though.

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  3. I would be terrified if I saw a bear. I just assume instant death. Even with scars, thank goodness your friends made it through that. We don't have to worry about them in Southern California, but we have tons of coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats. Coyotes are cute though, mostly because I know they are total chickens :) Are you in Idaho? I flew out of Boise and they were selling Huckleberry everything at the gift shops.

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    1. Your mountain lions are kind of scary. We have them too, but they have so much food (deer, elk) and territory that they don't bother people. I'm in Montana.

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