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Old 04-24-07, 06:51 PM   #1
Niles H.
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Close encounters

Early one morning I woke up because the air around my face seemed, in my sleep, to be a bit unusual, and changing. There were waftings of warm, humid air. My eyes opened and I was nose-to-nose with a full-sized bear.

I've had a few other encounters that perked me up quite a bit.

Anyone else?
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Old 04-24-07, 06:58 PM   #2
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Not while touring. I had a few encounters with bears while while tree-planting though. One guy fought one one with his shovel.

A friend of mine works for Jasper park and had hundreds encounters. He was charged once. The mother bear stopped a few feet in front of him. He's more affraid of moose. Him and his pals have quite a few stories.
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Old 04-24-07, 07:36 PM   #3
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Cmon Niles. What'd you do?
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Old 04-24-07, 07:57 PM   #4
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In Camp as a kid the counselor made us pitch the tent on ground that was not flat. I woke up in the middle of the night with my three tent-mates piled on top of me.
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Old 04-25-07, 05:51 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ken cummings
In Camp as a kid the counselor made us pitch the tent on ground that was not flat. I woke up in the middle of the night with my three tent-mates piled on top of me.
Really? Sounds like that time from university when I went camping with at least three other guys in the tent during a wet and stormy night! I'm small and these guys were like rugby (if not football) players.
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Old 04-25-07, 06:22 PM   #6
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I went to the bathroom and left my tent door open since I was only going to be gone a few minutes. When I returned, I started reading again and noticed movement on the ceiling of my. When I looked, my headlamp illuminated a big hairy spider about the size of my hand. I was able to open the door again w/out shaking him loose and dove out of the tent. I was told s/he wasn't venemous but still scared the ____ out of me.

+1-So Niles, what happened.
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Old 04-26-07, 11:42 AM   #7
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+1...what happened.
[...sorry to have been offline -- couldn't reply until now:]

There wasn't much time to 'think', only enough to react. My education in this area (what to do about bears) came from reading a book about the John Muir Trail, just before hiking it. On that trip, I did have a mother bear and her two cubs try to get into my backpack at night. The backpack was leaning against a tree, and was just behind my head -- the book had suggested this approach to positioning the backpack at night (which seems a little questionable in hindsight). It also suggested clanging some pots together, yelling, etc. -- it said that bears don't like the metal-on-metal sound....

So that's what I did. The two cubs went up the tree; the mother dragged my pack about forty feet away and started working on it. My two friends woke up and helped scare her away. The pack had some reasonably minor damage from her teeth.

When this other, more recent bear encounter happened, the old programming came into play. I sprang up, yelled loudly and clapped my hands. The bear went bounding off through the brush.

I felt a little bad about it afterwards. The bear actually seemed kind of mellow and friendly, and I 'realized' that it was probably just curious, and if I had been a little mellower about it myself, I probably could have made friends with the bear, or at least had a more mellow encounter.

Then, weeks later, I realized something else: that approach (making friends with wild animals) can be pretty stupid (even making friends with certain domestic animals can be pretty stupid at times (see link below)) -- and my first reaction was probably wiser than my later 'realization'.

(Which then brings up the point of my present realization, and whether it is a 'realization' or a (valid) realization.)

***
There was a couple who decided they were going to do with bears what Dian Fossey did with gorillas (or what Jane Goddall did with chimpanzees) -- befriend them and live among them and study them that way....

The couple ended up buying the farm while studying some large bears.

***
It is also true that the advice once given for dealing with black bears -- to curl up and play dead -- has been revised in the light of the fact that these bears will sometimes commence feeding in such situations.

So, at this point at least, it seems unwise to befriend these creatures, however mellow their vibes and their present (apparent) intentions. They have too many unpredictable and dangerous instincts to trust that approach....

Last edited by Niles H.; 04-26-07 at 12:03 PM.
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Old 04-26-07, 12:04 PM   #8
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Is that the now accepted method to deal with all bears now? When they charge is it best to stand your ground too?
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Old 04-26-07, 12:53 PM   #9
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Is that the now accepted method to deal with all bears now? When they charge is it best to stand your ground too?
I'm not up on the latest. Will post if I find some good links.

***
(My understanding at this point is that black bears and cougars should be scared away or fought and repelled, grizzlies are different....)

***
Just remembered: I spoke with someone who spent six months at a time in black bear country, camping out, working for the forest service. He and his coworkers would stockpile rocks and throw them at the problem bears while yelling and making noise. He said it worked.
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Old 04-26-07, 01:04 PM   #10
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That makes me think of cavemen defending the tribe. Great image!
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Old 04-26-07, 01:26 PM   #11
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Here's an interesting DVD about the life (and untimely death) of Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend. It deals with how the good Mr Treadwell "befriended" the grizzlies in Alaska's Katmai National Park; an interesting study even with its somewhat sad conclusion.

I'm reminded of a comic strip which showed in the first frame, St Francis preaching to a somewhat bemused bear. The second frame showed the bear wiping its mouth with a paw, looking reflectively at the pair of sandals (all that remained of the good saint) in front of him, and thinking to itself "yup, an' I'm jus' a dum' ol' bear wot don't speak Eytalian…"

- Wil
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Old 04-26-07, 04:08 PM   #12
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I think the problem with bears is that the tactics that work on some bears, don't work on others. Like adolescent male bears, for e.g. If you stand up to them, they don't back off, the way other bears are supposed to (or something like that, don't quote me on it). And then you have tactics for grizzlies, vs tactics for black bears. It's not simple.

When I lived in the Rockies the recommendation (besides wearing a bear bell on your pack) was to walk slowly backwards, whistling, if you saw one.

Here's a link from Parks Canada re bears in the Rockies (Banff, Jasper, Yoho Nat'l Parks): Bear management
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Old 04-26-07, 04:28 PM   #13
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Bear middle management
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Old 04-26-07, 05:32 PM   #14
Niles H.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...rica_by_decade

http://edition.cnn.com/2003/US/West/...ear.attack.ap/

Another article mentions that black bears are more likely to make a predatory attack, and that grizzlies are more likely to make a defensive attack.

***
Here's an expert, a professional, who has worked with bears and knows them well:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=YtmmefcJbMc

***
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly...zzly_territory

***
"Although many people do not regard black bears as dangerous animals, they can unquestionably kill human beings as readily as their grizzly cousins.
The black bears' seeming lack of aggression, scientists have theorized, may be connected with their aboriginal, forested habitat. Black bears having adapted to trees and thick mountain foliage, learned to take advantage of vegetaion as an escape. However, a wounded or cornered black bear or one whose cubs might be endangered can be a fearsome spectacle.
As large as many grizzlies, at a top weight of 273 kilograms and with cinnamon and dark-brown colorings that frequently occur among black bears, blacks are occasion-substantial. The black bear's head is smaller and narrower and is held up higher as the animal ambles along. Blacks also lack the shoulder hump of the grizzlies and have shorter, more curved claws that are razor-sharp to make tree-climbing swift and efficient."

Others have stressed the point that their claws are much sharper than most people assume. When I had some of my gear opened up last year by a bear(s), I could tell that their claws are sharper than I had thought.

Last edited by Niles H.; 04-26-07 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 04-26-07, 05:37 PM   #15
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It's probably a good thing to be informed and prepared; it also seems good, though, to remember that most encounters with the natural world are more along the lines of http://youtube.com/watch?v=3bot3MbTh1Y

(With occasional exceptions....)

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Old 04-26-07, 06:07 PM   #16
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A memorable exception:

Hot August afternoon, dry foothills.... Had just finished riding. Off the bike now, and overheating. Found the cave entrance pretty quickly. Wandered into a cool, moist, steady breeze coming from inside the narrow cave.

Took off cycling clothes. The cool air was like a gift. Cooling down nicely. Felt like moving further into cave. Hit upon a solution to not having a flashlight: Walk slowly, test each footfall, and shift weight onto the leading foot slowly. And it actually worked.

It worked for quite a while.

I turned around to look back and see how far I had walked, and the entrance was only a small, dim light in the distance. The rest was totally black -- all around; three hundred sixty degrees of it, above, below, in front, and to the sides.

Continuing deeper into the cave, I put my left foot forward, slowly shifted my weight onto that foot, and started swinging my right foot forward. There was an unusual noise. It started faintly, and then became very noticeable. I couldn't quite identify it, though. It sounded like the muscular arm of large, strong man, but very dry and rough. And it was moving against the edge of a rock, so I could hear it scraping, and it was right next to the outside edge of my left foot.

I then realized what it was; at that same moment another, much louder sound started going.

...

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Old 04-26-07, 07:09 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by permanentjaun
Is that the now accepted method to deal with all bears now? When they charge is it best to stand your ground too?
Here's something from the May '07 issue of Backpacker:

"Black Bear: Try to appear as large as possible by raising your arms and even your pack over your head. Shout and slowly back away. If a black bear attacks, fight back aggressively. With any type of bear -- grizzly or black -- turning around and running will encourage a foot race you won't win."

"Grizzly: Avoid eye contact, speak in a low voice, and back away slowly. If it charges, hold your ground and attempt to look as large as possible. Some charges are bluffs. If the grizzly attacks, lie flat on your stomach, lace your hands over the back of your neck, and play dead."

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Old 04-26-07, 08:07 PM   #18
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Bears that I have encountered tend to act more like the one in this first video,

http://youtube.com/watch?v=h7MuFDVEUro

They sometimes act differently:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-ByFv5pGdA&NR=1

(It's interesting to see how quick they can be -- toward the end, he doesn't look as slow and lumbering as he did earlier.)

***
It's easy to develop some complacency: based on a number of experiences with bears, I came to see them as fairly gentle creatures who will almost always avoid a conflict.

Now, after doing some more digging, I can see that they may usually be that way -- or even very usually -- but are also able to act differently.

(The line "distance is your friend" keeps coming to mind.)

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Old 04-27-07, 11:52 AM   #19
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...At least I hadn't stepped on it. That would have been worse.

The sound was from its scales, as they scraped against a rock. It was a large rattlesnake, and it had moved away a bit, as it coiled up, before it started to rattle.

The cave was narrow at that point, and there wasn't much room. It was clearly not a good idea to go back out the way I had come in: there wasn't much room on either side of the snake, and...it just wouldn't have been a good decision.

So it seemed, at first, that the best approach would be to go forward, further into the cave, and hope for an opening. The breeze coming out of the cave had to be coming from somewhere....

Then I remembered that rattlesnakes have been known to congregate in caves on hot days, to get out of the heat. So there could well be more snakes ahead.

So I stayed put for quite a while, unable to go forward or back, wondering what to do, feeling like some rodent cornered in a burrow, while being observed by a large pit viper(s) that could see me (or see the infrared) easily enough, while I couldn't see anything at all.

These snakes have venom as well, which (in this situation) could be used at will. It was a remote area -- getting help, or getting to a hospital, would have taken too long.

The rattling continued.

It was a strange feeling: No longer at the top of the food chain, no longer the dominant species, and at a distinct disadvantage -- held or trapped, and monitored by senses that human beings do not possess. The tables were turned. It was a very strange feeling, almost like being held by some superior alien species, and an alien consciousness. Sitting there, crouched against the wall, I felt that these snakes have very different minds and modes of consciousness, and a different sort of awareness.

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Old 04-27-07, 07:31 PM   #20
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howdy ho tourers!

there is a great book on the subject that will help you to have a more nuanced and hopefully safe reaction to bear encounters:bear attacks their causes and avoidance

it helps to identify the type of encounter you may be having so that you can react appropriately

simple rules may be memorable but they are far from universally applicable!

stay safe!
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Old 04-27-07, 08:20 PM   #21
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simple rules may be memorable but they are far from universally applicable!
Well, except for the rule that you don't gotta be faster than the bear, just faster than someone else in your group....
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Old 04-27-07, 09:34 PM   #22
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Well, except for the rule that you don't gotta be faster than the bear, just faster than someone else in your group....

ahahahah classic AND totally true! Tour with your enemies!
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Old 04-27-07, 09:47 PM   #23
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Imagine One bear talking to another. The other has a giant target on his chest. The first bear says: "That is really a nasty birth mark you've got there."

Took a friend of mine fly fishing (his first time) and I told him I would clean up breakfast and camp and meet him down at the river. It wasn't long until Bobby was running up the trail screaming that a bear was chasing him. Of course I thought, Not! It was chasing him, but a few loud yells and some pot banging and off it went. Bobby never did catch any fish!

When living in Ca I was far more concerned about mountain lions than bears. It seems the mountain lions like to attack mountain bikers or I figured touring bikers at the wrong place at the right time.
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Old 04-28-07, 10:03 AM   #24
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When I was a fairly young hitch-hiker, some older Canadian Indians (who had very kindly invited me to a funeral/feast they were going to) told me that if I slept under a large fir (I think) tree, more or less closed in by the lower boughs, that the bears would leave me alone. I did and lived. It has occured to me that they may have told me that just so I would sleep without worrying
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Old 04-28-07, 07:41 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Niles H.
If the grizzly attacks, lie flat on your stomach, lace your hands over the back of your neck, and play dead."
And pray like a SOB.
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