For those of us who are wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts, we usually know the patterns and behaviors of wild animals. This is not to say that we can gauge their behavior exactly. After all, they are called wild for a reason. But we know that bears hibernate and can approximate when they are active and awake. Here is a story of how a bear attack was avoided during an unexpected bear encounter.
It was a nice, quiet Saturday morning in the mountains. I was not living permanently in the mountains at the time but spent many weekends at a family cabin. As a result, though no expert by any means, I had an idea of what to expect when it came to wildlife.
My entire life, I have always been taught that bears are most active between 1800 and 0800. This has only changed in my experience when the forest experienced extreme drought. Since I’m a person who worries, I always maintained that mindset and never ventured out into the woods between those hours. In fact, I would take it a step further and wait until at least 0930 to walk just in to ensure I didn’t have a bear encounter. Let’s just say that, at times, additional circumstances make bears deviate from this routine.
After a few cups of coffee, my mother and I decided to take a walk before breakfast. We waited until 0930 before venturing on one of our usual routes. The only reason we waited was to ensure we would have a peaceful, bear-free walk. We began our excursion and looped through an area with rental cabins. Surely we would be safe from bears with more people around. Yeah right.
We rounded the corner, discussing what we would do the rest of the day when we heard a growl.
What the hell? At first, I thought it was a dog, but I quickly realized this was no dog. It was a decent-sized brown bear. We were only a few feet away. The bear had not only stood on its’ hind feet (which we all know is not a good sign) but was also showing its’ teeth. I was not ready for a bear attack.
In that moment, time slows down a little, and you somehow have time to formulate a plan even though it’s been seconds. We looked at each other and backed up slowly. We then heard crying. It was not human cries, but bear cub cries, and it was coming from the dumpster. When mama bear heard her cubs, she turned, and we took advantage of that and hid in someone’s fenced yard.
Being Saturday morning, and we did see a light on in the house, we figured someone had to be home. So we knocked on the door and explained the situation. The homeowners were courteous and not at all upset that we were in their yard. We all peeked from behind bushes to assess the situation. The bear cubs appeared stuck inside the dumpster after a morning breakfast dive. The mother bear was trying desperately to remove them, but she couldn’t quite reach them even when she perched herself on the edge of the dumpster.
After a few minutes, one of the homeowners said he had helped that same bear with this situation before. He waited until she was calm and sat on the hill behind the dumpster. She was not going to leave her cubs behind, but you could clearly see she was at a loss. The homeowner went to his garage and got a piece of plywood. Very carefully, with eyes on mama bear, he approached the dumpster propping the wood against the inside of the dumpster. He then returned to the yard, and we all waited.
Mama bear seemed to study the situation for a few moments. The next thing we knew, we saw two cubs emerge from the dumpster. As they surfaced, mama bear managed to scoop up the cubs and place them on the ground. She grunted at them, probably reprimanding them, and they all shuffled up the hill. Whew! That was too close for comfort.
My mother and I thanked the homeowners for allowing us to wait it out in their yard. We then ran, yes ran, back to our cabin.
We were quite fortunate in our bear encounter. While it is understandable why the mama bear was upset, it still was not a pleasant situation for us. I would not suggest ever getting that close to a bear. Here are a few ways to deter a bear if you encounter one.
-If you encounter a bear as I did in the woods, be still and slowly move in the opposite direction.
-Never make abrupt movements. Though you want to distance yourself from the bear, you don’t want to aggravate it.
-Ensure that your home or yard does not have anything that could potentially attract a bear. (For example, if you are a bird enthusiast, do not leave suet out all year round, bears love suet.)
-Be mindful of when and where you leave your windows open. I have known more than one person who has ended up with a bear in their kitchen.
-If you encounter one in a small space, ensure the bear is not “trapped.” It is far better if the bear feels they have an escape route.
-Making a loud noise, such as shouting or clapping, is also helpful. Make sure you are not too close to the bear when you do this.
-If you live in a wooded area where bears frequent, look around before letting your dogs or children outside.
-Make sure your trash isn’t accessible. If a bear knows your neighborhood has easy access to trash dumpsters, it will remember this.
-Do not feed bears or any wild animal. No one needs domesticated bears.
-If you are camping, do not leave any food or trash out that may attract a bear. You do not want any unwanted guests crashing your party.
Though bears do not often deviate from their nocturnal routines, it happens at times, especially if the area is experiencing a drought. If you see a bear in your neighborhood, do not approach it. Call the game warden. They can safely remove the bear and relocate it. This is not only in your best interest but the best scenario for the bear as well.
Finally, be vigilant and maintain situational awareness at all times. Enjoy that hike; just be mindful of bear season.
Be sure to check out more of these exciting No Shit There I Was Stories!