We hadn’t even begun to unload our camping gear when the first bear came by - a young adolescent bear, who trotted past our camp. We probably wouldn’t have even noticed him, if Rocket hadn’t sounded the alarm. With her big booming bark and keen alertness, she is really good at giving us advanced warning of potential danger. She is usually the first one to notice anything strange or out of place in the area. A great watch dog!! Anyway, the others dogs joined her in sounding the alarm, and the young bear took off over a small ridge, apparently wanted nothing to do with our little group. The following video shows that first encounter.
What is interesting about these encounters is that you can never tell how a bear will react when it comes into contact with humans. Like people, they all have different personalities – Some are easily frightened away, and will avoid human contact at all costs, while others may be curious, and downright aggressive ( if hungry or protecting their young). You just can never tell, which is why I always keep my distance from wild animals. I love watching wildlife, but I have a healthy respect for the super-predators, like bears, wolves, or mountain lions. I’m certainly not a fast runner, and I would be a very easy meal for any wild animal hungry enough to stalk me. I have watched several videos of bears stalking humans on the internet, and I hope I never find myself in that situation. As animals, human defense mechanisms are pretty weak, which makes us pretty easy pickings.
Here is a great video I found of a mother Grizzly bear protecting her cubs - She had no problem attacking a small boat of men who were just rafting down a river. What really surprised me was the speed at which the attack unfolded - one second they were peacefully drifting down the river and the next second they were face to face with Instant Death!!
Our next encounter occurred 4 days later, when a much larger bear came wandering toward camp. Again the dogs alerted us to its presence, but this time the bear was much more curious, and was not so easily scared away by our dogs. She/He didn’t head straight for our camp, but was walking in a zigzag pattern as he kept coming closer and closer raising his nose into the air. At this point, Don and I loaded the dogs into the truck, just in case the bear became agitated and decided to charge or something.
Tied to the trees, our little schnauzers would not have had a chance if the bear decided to attack! This bear stuck around camp for a good 45 minutes. I sat in the truck with our dogs, while Don tried to scare it away by yelling out a series of Hey Bear! Hey Bear!, which had absolutely no effect. The bear was so unafraid of humans that it even sat down for a few minutes in a tall patch of weeds not 25 yards away from our campfire. After a while it decided to move on.
We were visited 2 more times during our second week of camping. On our third encounter, I yelled out a couple of “Hey Bears!” to try scare the bear away. Even though I lowered my voice to sound bigger and tougher, it didn’t work. The bear kept coming closer and closer……. I slowly backed away, and calmly got inside our truck with the dogs until the bear decided to leave.
I totally slept through the last encounter, but awoke at 7 a.m. in the morning to find Don sitting outside our tent keeping guard with my walking stick. Apparently, Don, woke up because Cricket was growling at something outside of our tent. I guess a large bear, possibly a male, was sniffing around our tent. My husband could hear something scrounging around outside, and the only thing we had in the tent at the time was my walking stick, so he grabbed it, and peaked outside to see the bear sniffing around the campfire pit. When the bear spotted Don, it an off so my husband decided to sit outside and start a campfire to keep the bear away.
Because of our encounters at Bear Patch, Don and I starting looking at bear repellants, which can be a little expensive. While we own guns for self protection, I wanted to have some type of protection when going hiking - something that was non lethal, but would scare away large predators, so we decided to get a loud air horn that I could carry with me. The reason we went with an air horn instead of the bear repellent is because I could also use it as a distress signal if I got hurt while hiking.
It can be heard from a great distance away, and Don and I have worked out a code of long honks if I get hurt and can’t make it back to camp. Unfortunately, I have bad knees, and every once in a while one of them goes out on me, while I am on a long hike. I haven’t had the opportunity to see if it works on bears yet, but it is quite affective in scaring away cows which we occasionally encounter while camping.
Here are a couple of videos of our own Bear encounters:
As this post is already getting quite long, I have decided to post bear safety tips in my next post. On a side note, we returned to Bear Patch a couple of times when we were conducting Black Bear (Ursus americanus) studies. It turned out to be a great place to gather data on Black Bear behavior, diet, and habitat.