Well, on our afternoon walk today, we had a little bear encounter. So much for those fancy-dan bird dogs of mine who ran right underneath the bear who was standing uphill from the trail “chuffing” at us. Standing! On it’s hind legs! A bear! A very dark, very big, bear-person who was not happy to see us at all.
Luckily, the dogs came right back when I yelled at them to come NOW, and I made them heel as I backed away slowly, holding out my bear spray, wondering if I should pull the safety latch off or not. The bear was not happy to see us, and it was watching us, and I was really trying to remember what you’re supposed to do so it wouldn’t charge. I figured backing off didnt’ make me look too much like prey, and I just hoped I was right. Frankly, I am glad the bears are here, in my neighborhood, but I still wasn’t sure if it was a grizzly or not, or if it was going to come barrelling down off that hill and well, tear my scalp off and shake me like a rag doll. It was one of those moments when things get very very real.
And then I’d backed far enough back down the trail that I felt I could turn around, and we walked quickly, yet not running, and the dogs still didnt’ have a clue why I was yelling at them in to stay RIGHT HERE. I was very nervous until we got up out of the creekbed and into the little meadow, where we all took a breather and the dogs took off down a different drainage, barking at grouse.
Now, I worry about encounters like this, because I am not a big person (not that that would matter in a bear encounter — bears are bigger and stronger than even the big guys). And I’ve always felt a little histrionic putting bells on my dogs, and carrying my bear spray on the local trails where people like me walk their dogs in the evenings. I mean, they’re pretty busy trails. But boy, was I glad to have my bear spray today … at least it gave me something to focus on … the idea that if the bear charged me I had to pull off that safety tab and, get this, wait until the bear was close (how close? I was trying to remember … I think it’s something like 10 feet) to spray the pepper spray that would, with any luck, stop it and make it go away.
Luckily, we all managed to communicate across species with one another. The bear told us to go away. The dogs listened when I told them we were going back NOW. We backed off, and nothing any scarier happened than suddenly realizing as you’re strolling along a trail you’ve walked hundreds of times that something sounds different, and not in a good way.
So I got home and called Doug Peacock to ask him if black bears make those noises or was it a grizzly, and he said it was probably a black bear, and then congratulated me for having a “real experience” out there today, said that’s how it’s supposed to be. Which is true. And I agree. But I could wait a while for the next real experience.