Author Topic: Bear On the Trail  (Read 648 times)

Offline SGOS

Bear On the Trail
« on: September 28, 2019, 05:27:43 PM »
I've been hiking about every other day this summer, and yesterday I encountered a bear on the trail, and I've never had one act the way this one did.  It scared me.  In Montana I've had lots of bear encounters, some as close as 5 yards.  If you spend a lot of time in the woods, these sudden encounters with wildlife up close happen from time to time.  Every time I've met a bear, the bear leaves, usually at the speed of a freight train.  Once I had a stand off with a sow and two cubs that lasted  for minutes face to face at 10 yards.  I carried bear spray back then, and I had it out, but eventually the sow rounded up her cubs and walked away. But this bear yesterday...

I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia now, and we have bears, quite a few, and I had one on my porch a few years ago.  I see one or two in my yard each year.  I haven't carried bear spray since I moved here.  I was starting my hike in early light to beat the heat of the day, and a half mile into my hike I caught a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye down below me in the creek bottom.  I didn't pick up any color just movement.  I kept walking and a second or maybe seconds later about 40 yards ahead a bear came charging up the hill and crossed the trail at full speed and quickly disappeared into the brush.  For the record, he was unusually big, not that makes any difference really.

I thought, hey cool and I wasn't afraid because he was in a hurry to get away, or it seemed like it, but a couple of seconds later he charged back down to where he crossed the trail and spun around to look at me for a couple more seconds.  And I got this "Oh, shit" feeling, and then he started coming at me, not a slow stalk, but in a way that I might describe as "fast and meaningful", and he then he quickened his pace.  I shouted at him to make sure he knew I was human (bears don't have great eyesight), but he kept coming, so I shouted at him again with the most authoritative voice I could manage, "Go away bear!"  Yeah, I know.  Kind of dumb, but I had to say something.

Then he stopped short, and looked like he was processing the situation.  I thought, "OK this is probably over, but he started running at me again, and I just kept shouting, "Go away.  Get out of here!"  Then he stopped short again and looked like he was processing again.  He spun around and headed up the trail and disappeared back into brush.  I went home.  Fuck that hike. 

I called around and found a Dick's sporting good store that had one canister of bear spray.  They said they would hold it for me, and I drove 50 miles to get it.  When I got to the customer service counter, I told them I was there to pick up some bear spray, and the guy at the counter shouts to a guy at check out that there is supposed to be some bear spray for this guy.  Right!  Announce it to the whole store.  Might as well add that I was a real wimp.  I didn't say anything, but the canister was brought to the counter from across the store.  So I walked over to the check out and had to pass this redneck guy that was smiling while he said, "You know, a .357 magnum works pretty good for that too," so I walked over to him and said, "Yeah, but I don't want to piss the bears off.  I just want them to leave me alone."  He was fine with that and acknowledged it as not unreasonable.

In thinking about this afterwards, I'm wondering if the bear was attempting a bluff charge.  I've heard they do this, but never saw one actually do it.  I never had a bear come at me before.  I feel certain he knew I was human, especially after I yelled at it.  It was strange that he charged and then withdrew, because I was defenseless and he had me dead to rights, not that he knew that of course.  But if he was just trying to intimidate me, it worked because I was beating a retreat with one eye over my shoulder right after it was over.  So he's got the creek to himself for another day, but I'll be back there tomorrow with a can of bear spray in hand and my bear radar set on high.   

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2019, 05:44:41 PM »
I've seen quite a few bears in the wild, never had one charge at me, though. I can see how that would be somewhat...uh...exhilarating! Making a lot of noise while hiking is a good idea in bear country, so they know you're coming before you surprise them. And stay far away from any cubs that might be around.

Glad you survived, and now you have a good tale to regale us with!
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Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2019, 05:47:23 PM »
I've also heard it's always a good idea to hike with a buddy - so you have someone to outrun when a bear shows up.
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Atheism: The belief that we have a long way to go before we even begin to understand the infinite complexities of the universe.
Religion: "The big magic sky-man made it all, now give me some money."

Offline SGOS

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2019, 06:14:00 PM »
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Making a lot of noise while hiking is a good idea in bear country, so they know you're coming before you surprise them.
I'm always aware of this.  But most of the time, I hike by myself, probably 90% of the time, because I like the aloneness and heightened awareness.  I guess it's a trade off I make.  In my old age, I use trekking poles now, and they clatter constantly on rocks.  I don't create a ruckus, but I'm kind of noisy.  It probably helps if they hear you talking.  It's hard not to talk when you are with someone.

Offline SGOS

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2019, 06:24:38 PM »
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I've also heard it's always a good idea to hike with a buddy - so you have someone to outrun when a bear shows up.
That old joke about the guy putting on his tennis shoes so he could run faster may be the funniest bear joke I've ever heard.

Offline Hydra009

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2019, 07:27:17 PM »
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When I got to the customer service counter, I told them I was there to pick up some bear spray, and the guy at the counter shouts to a guy at check out that there is supposed to be some bear spray for this guy.  Right!  Announce it to the whole store.  Might as well add that I was a real wimp.
F that.  Wimps don't go on trails where they're likely to encounter a bear.  You're courageous AND reasonably cautious.  Anyone who says otherwise can go fuck themselves.

Offline Baruch

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2019, 10:21:28 PM »
Real bear stories heard in the last year ...

Guy on E Coast that was treed for hours by an relentless mother bear, and did extreme damage to his leg (that was in reach of her claws).

Couple of Grizzly lovers up in Alaska, both of whom were killed and eaten.  Detailed animal behavior analysis on YouTube.

The problem isn't with reasonable bears, or even reasonable mother bears ... but post analysis in each case said that the bears in question were "off", had no access to mental health services, or were starving.

You are both very lucky.  In 1965, feeding cookies thru the crack in the window, to Brown bears, in E Yellowstone.  Not smart either.  I have surprised a wild animal only once ... a doe.  Not a puma.
Zampa xiquihto.  Amo nimitzcuamachilia.
Say it again.  I don't understand you.

Offline SGOS

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2019, 10:29:30 PM »
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F that.  Wimps don't go on trails where they're likely to encounter a bear.  You're courageous AND reasonably cautious.  Anyone who says otherwise can go fuck themselves.
The wimp comment was partly a self deprecating attempt at humor, and I hoped it would give people a chuckle, because I don't really see myself as a wimp, except that bear did scare the bejabbers out of me when he reversed his retreat and skidded out of the brush and squared off with me on the trail.  I wasn't exactly scared to death, but I could feel fear building.  As I said before, my first thought was, "Oh shit."  What followed was remarkably unemotional inner dialog, "remarkably unemotional" being relative for the situation of course.  I was nervous, but I still wasn't sure what was going to happen.  I remember thinking, "Here it is.  The thing I hoped would never happen may be about to happen." 

Then the bear started his run, fast paced at first, but gathering speed, and I thought, "Holy crap!  It IS happening.  I thought about climbing a tree, but I'm too old for that.  I thought about turning around and running, but I haven't actually ran more than 3 feet in the last 10 years, so I just held my ground and started yelling at the bear, because that's all I could think of.  When the bear finally stopped and processed the situation for the last time, and then turned around and left, I had no idea what he was thinking, I wasn't sure what it was he had started, or why he changed his mind. I started to feel relieved and during that relief is when the fear started registering.  The walk back out to the trail head was the most nerve wracking part, even though I was sure the bear was done with whatever it was he was doing, I still thought he might come back looking for me again.  I think I now had room in my head for the fear.  At the height of the action, I just had enough space to think, and even as I was planning what to do, I knew the whole outcome was dependent on what the bear decided.  I could yell all I wanted, I don't even know if that was what turned him.

When I got to the trail head, a guy I didn't know was just getting out of his pickup, and I started jabbering to him like a little kid that had just run away from bullies.  I held my own with the bear, but I did feel wimpy about jabbering all this to a stranger, but even at that, I was laughing at my own inner child.  Wimpy?  Yeah kind of, but as the day wore on, I became more aware of the underlying fear I had through the whole event, even though it was suppressed during the worst of it.

The 100 mile round trip to buy bear spray was far more calculated. I had clearly disregarded Virginia bears.  I don't know why because bears are bears, and that trail was in my favorite hiking area, and I knew there were bears there.  And I do know from experience that having a solid counter assault technology, even knowing it's doubtful you will ever need it, does provide you with extra peace of mind when you're in bear country, and since I like to go to the woods for my peace of mind, I automatically end up in bear country.  Why not add a little extra peace of mind and make it just a bit more relaxing.  I carry a rain jacket for that reason, so why not a 4oz thing that fits in your pocket too?

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2019, 11:40:51 PM »
My closest encounter with a bear occurred when I was about 5 or 6.  We were on our first family camping trip (I had to be 5 then, for this was before my little brother appeared) and we were settled in for the night at Yellowstone.  My parents put the ice chest and opened food in the trunk.  In the tent with us was a grocery bag of chips and crackers, all unopened.  In the middle of the night I awoke to scuffling and yelling.  I looked out from my sleeping bag and saw a bear with is head inside the tent munching on the goodies in the bag.  My dad grabbed a flashlight and began shouting and waving the thing at the bear.  I promptly dove to the bottom of the bag and therefore missed the rest of the encounter.  Apparently the bear did turn tail and run and my parents put the leftovers in the trunk of the car and the rest of the night was uneventful.  So, I guess yelling and hollering is the thing to do--at least it worked this time. 

My last encounter was in the Smokey Mountains--my family and another family were tent camping.  In the middle of the night I was on my way to the outhouse when I turned a corner and came face-to-face with a bear.  I yelled and went back the way I came--apparently the bear did the same.  Needless to say, by the time I had finished peeing all over myself, I no longer needed to go to the outhouse.  I guess my yelling had an effect and the bear fled.

According to a ranger in Yosemite, when hiking in bear country, make noise.  Talk loud--if using a walking stick make noise with that.  I guess that is sound advise--but I've not tested it.  And don't plan to.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Offline drunkenshoe

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2019, 03:44:33 AM »
I would shit myself and faint, so would the overwhelming majority on the planet.

You felt 'wimpy' afterwards about telling a stranger, probably because of those piece of shit rednecks in the store. A lot of strangers with healthy mentality would react differently. Don't you think it is very normal for you to tell about what you lived through when you get in that store to buy a bear spray? It's very natural. May be my mind works a bit different, but just that -you telling about it - actually tells the opposite of wimpy about you. Their reaction is abhorrent, obnoxious and stupid. .357 magnum works too? Really?

What if you were really a wimp? Because a wimp would be affected by a macho snigger like that, feel humiliated and buy a weapon, probably shoot and wound an animal in even a far less tense encounter, make things worse for himself or may be even shoot a human in wilderness without even understanding a simple situation. Well, IF wimps actually go hiking alone in wilderness with wild life of course. I pretty much doubt it.

Well done. Good encounter with the bear, you haven't panicked, stood your ground. Bad luck with the other animals in the store. 
'the wise man does not seek enlightenment, he waits for it. so while ı was waiting, it occurred to me that seeking perplexity might be more fun.’ - lu-tze

Offline Baruch

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2019, 05:59:46 AM »
Definitely make noise.  I knew a guy who hiked on the far side of the lake at Grand Tetons ... he came around a corner and there was a bear sunning himself!.  I think that noise would have prevented that.
Zampa xiquihto.  Amo nimitzcuamachilia.
Say it again.  I don't understand you.

Offline Sal1981

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2019, 06:17:42 AM »
Only thing we have to be afraid of around here hiking are rams, which pose no threat to anyone other than children.
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" --- Richard P. Feynman

Offline SGOS

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2019, 06:56:10 AM »
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You felt 'wimpy' afterwards about telling a stranger, probably because of those piece of shit rednecks in the store. A lot of strangers with healthy mentality would react differently.
The guy in the pickup wasn't that type at all.  We ended up talking about bears we had seen, and he gave no impression that he wanted to shoot the first thing that gives him a funny look in the woods.  The guy in the store was more obvious about his position, but neither of us wanted to pursue a debate.  I did open a potential crack when I said I didn't want to piss off the bears, and he let it go with a, "Well that can happen if you miss."  A lot of guys would take it to the next level so they could defend whatever Gun Amendment it is in the constitution.  But that has nothing to do with what happened that day.  I just wanted the bear to leave me alone.

Incidentally, bear spray appears to be very effective.  A bear mauling is a rare event.  They just get tremendous coverage when they happen.  Now bear repellant has only been around for 40 years or so, and the rarity of such encounters can't provide a lot of statistics to verify its effectiveness.  But last I checked, which was maybe 10 years ago, there had never been a case where bear spray failed to stop a bear, but wounded bears do become dangerous, and as a case in point, about 10 years ago, a wounded bear killed the hunter who shot him near where I lived in Montana.  But it may be too early to know for sure what the safer defense is.

When I first started carrying spray, I was curious about its effectiveness, and I was also curious about using it properly, so one totally calm day in the woods, I removed the safety and discharged a brief squirt of the orange mist.  Since there was no wind, I wasn't worried about blow back.  I only released it for less than a second, and all the mist went in the direction I aimed, but a few seconds later some undetectable current in the air brought a small whiff of residual spray my way, not enough of it to see it coming, so I didn't get a face full, but it's effect was dramatic.  I immediately felt suffocated and in a panic, I bolted from the area I released the spray.  It took awhile to start breathing normally again.  I'm pretty sure the stuff works as it's supposed to.

Offline SGOS

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2019, 07:23:49 AM »
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My closest encounter with a bear occurred when I was about 5 or 6.  We were on our first family camping trip (I had to be 5 then, for this was before my little brother appeared) and we were settled in for the night at Yellowstone.  My parents put the ice chest and opened food in the trunk.  In the tent with us was a grocery bag of chips and crackers, all unopened.
LOL  In 1954, I was eleven, and my family took their first trip out west, and like everyone else that goes west, we stopped at Yellowstone.  Back then, bears roamed freely through the camp grounds.  The Park Administration had just installed new bear proof garbage facilities that were buried in the ground like missile silos. They had a heavy cast iron hinged lid that required using both hands each requiring unique and simultaneous actions to open the lid.  As an eleven year old it was easy to look at it and figure out what you needed to do, and of course they were completely useless for keeping the bears out of the garbage.  They would just walk up to them and use their paws as required to pop the lids right up.

My little sister and I were waiting out of range with a sack full of garbage, while a bear was busy scattering garbage all over the place.  When he was done he headed off for the next garbage silo, so my sister and I walked up to add our garbage to the dumpster thing.  When the bear heard us he came running back as fast as he could, and my sister and I went screaming back to our campsite.  Of course the bear didn't care about us.  He just wanted to see what we put in the garbage hole.

You put the garbage where you were supposed to, and the bears would take it out.  It was that simple, except it was probably embarrassing for the Park Administration that created the new "bear proof" system.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2019, 07:25:33 AM by SGOS »

Offline SGOS

Re: Bear On the Trail
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2019, 07:32:06 AM »
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Only thing we have to be afraid of around here hiking are rams, which pose no threat to anyone other than children.
Domestic or wild rams?

 

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