Jul 4, 2011 at 11:59 am #1276284
@nerdboy52Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
I'm just back, having hiked about 70 miles in the Cranberry Backcountry in West Virginia, and a single encounter with a black bear and her cub defined the trip for me.
I hiked most of the Pocahontas Trail (the main trail), the Fork Mountain Tr (with its two-mile climb, heavily overgrown with stinging nettles), Big Run Trail (worth a side trip all the way down it to see Big Run and resupply with water), Big Bend Tr, Frosty Gap, Kennison Mountain Tr, South Fork Tr, Cowpasture Tr (worth a look to see Cranberry Glades), and North Bend Tr. These trails have been described as "underutilized" with good reason. If you're looking for solitude, this is the place to go.
Along the Pocahontas Trail, I had the black-bear experience that gave me something to think about for the following 20 miles or so.
I was cruising along when I heard a gigantic roar. It gave me a nanosecond of fear before I saw a momma bear tearing away from me into the woods. Her cub was scurrying up a tree making a sound that can only be described as a sign of sheer terror: a high-pitched EE-EE-EE-EE-EE-EE-EE-EE, a sound I had never heard from a bear before.
Now I've had bears follow me along the trail. I've had momma bears stare at me with curiosity, and I've seen bears amble quietly off the trail as I approached them. But I've never seen a mother bear abandon her cub in terror. It will take me a long time to recover from the fact that I was the proximate cause of that fear.
Can you tell that the state allows bear hunting in West Virginia? I've seen a lot of advice on how to deal with the "threat" of black bears on various backpacking boards. In some places at least the bears are not a threat. We are the threat to them. I've heard various species from the great white shark to the rattlesnake to the polar bear to the Ebola virus as the most dangerous organism on Earth. Let's face it. Humans are the most dangerous. We are a threat to other organisms and ourselves.
Ah, well. Just the meanderings engendered by so many hours alone on the trail.
P.S. added later: I was looking forward to snacking on the ripe blackberries on the trail, but every bush was stripped clean. Given the lack of humans along these underused trails, I can only assume that there were a lot of bears in the woods.Jul 4, 2011 at 12:46 pm #1755887
Yours is a different tale! I've not seen or heard of a mother bear doing that – you must be very scary!!!!
On the other side is the poor woman in BC who was recently killed and eaten by a bear. And that after she had complained to the RCMP that there were a lot of bears near her home. Very sad!Jul 4, 2011 at 3:14 pm #1755934
@sschloss1Locale: New England
Let's not convict the bears in BC before their trial. The woman was 70, and her cause of death is unknown. She could well have died of natural causes, and the bears fed on her body. Given that, the response of the officials–killing 4 bears, none of whom had human remains in their bodies–was ridiculous.Jul 4, 2011 at 4:51 pm #1755957
Daryl and DarylParticipant
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
I think you correclty identified that hunting probably pre-conditioned the bear to fear you.
Here in Washington State we have the North Cascades Park (no hunting) adjacent to the Pasayten Wilderness (hunting allowed). The bears in these two areas respond to me quite differently.
The bears in the Pasayten typically run away so fast that I wonder if I even saw one in the first place. The bears in the park are like grazing cows. If I'm not alert I could almost stumble over one.
To contrast with your experience I once came upon a mother bear and her cub in the park. I saw the cub in a tree because it was making sounds sort of like a sheep (baaaa baaaa). I then noticed the mother as I was about to walk right between the two. As I backtracked, the mother continued grazing and the baby stayed in the tree. I was definitely the scared one in this situation.
DarylJul 4, 2011 at 5:26 pm #1755966
"The woman was 70, and her cause of death is unknown. She could well have died of natural causes, and the bears fed on her body."
"Officials say a woman whose fed-upon remains were found near Lillooet, B.C., on Thursday appears to have been alive at some point during a bear attack."
Her ultimate cause of death is still unknown, but having a bear feed on you while still alive would not have made her healthier!
Black bears very occasionally prey upon humans. It's rare, but it does happen.
I brought this horrible incident up because of the interesting contrast between this and the OP's story. Period.Jul 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm #1756007
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
I make no claim to being a bear expert but I read somewhere that there are actually very few credible cases of a mother BLACK bear actually attacking a human to defend her cubs (I think one or two). I'm not sayings its never happened but its very rare even compared to other bear attacks (already quit rare). Grizzlies are more likely to attack because you come into their comfort zone which is probably why they got their reputation for having a bad temper.Jul 5, 2011 at 7:25 am #1756060
I have also read that black bears (In general) are not very protective of their cubs and that cubs have actually been taken from their mother while treed and the mother does nothing Now this does in no way mean that I suggest that you are alright messing with black bear cubs in front of their momma. I have read that with Grizzlys this would be a very bad move. However In glacier we had a mother on one side and one cub go around us on the other side and and another cub between us and nothing happened maybe cause it was their move and choice not ours and maybe they were way to used to people. It was a cool but scary momentJul 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm #1756573
Thomas, your encounter definitely sounds like a unique anomaly.
Unfortunately, you usually hear a different ending. I just saw this today:
http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/07/06/montana.grizzly.attack/index.html?Jul 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm #1756701
I was just there in Yellowstone a few weeks ago. I'm glad that I did not become a statistic.
–B.G.–Jul 7, 2011 at 6:31 am #1756748
Prevention steps from the cnn article.
Park visitors are advised to
1. hike in groups of three or more people
2. be alert for bears
3. make noise in blind spots
4. carry bear sprayJul 7, 2011 at 8:27 am #1756782
@richardglyonLocale: Bridger Mountains
First bear fatality in the Park in 25 years – despite an abundance of poorly prepared, stupidly behaving folks. Take the precautions listed above and you are far more likely to be injured driving to the trailhead than attacked by a bear.Jul 7, 2011 at 8:45 am #1756786
The comments on the CNN article are pretty hilarious. Personally, I expect bear attacks to skyrocket, as bears make a comeback and hunting is vilefied.Jul 7, 2011 at 9:06 am #1756796
I think the Yellowstone sow bear needs a new publicist.
–B.G.–Jul 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm #1756933
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
"First bear fatality in the Park in 25 years – despite an abundance of poorly prepared, stupidly behaving folks. Take the precautions listed above and you are far more likely to be injured driving to the trailhead than attacked by a bear."
Sort of misleading statistics, this is the 3rd bear mauling in the area this year, tho the other were technically outside the park.
Just had a black bear mauling in NE Washington last week too. A female jogger was
tackled and roughed up.
Deer maulings are making the news in BC.
Time to break out the pepper spray.Jul 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm #1756946
I agree with David. While this is technically the first attack within the actual park perimeters in decades, there have been some pretty scary attacks in the area.
For instance, this one back in 2010 scares the living bejeezus out of me:Jul 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm #1756972
@richardglyonLocale: Bridger Mountains
The 2010 incident was truly horrible, and tough to explain. An unprovoked attack on a campsite.
But most – almost all – of the attacks in the Greater Yellowstone area have an element of human error (i e, stupidity) to them. The rest were incidents of a hiker surprising the bear, something that every backcountry camper in the Park is warned about in a mandatory video. Be on the alert, follow some basic and simple precautions (including taking pepper spray), and you'll be fine. The bear-human encounters are remarkably low given the high number of visitors and the protected bear population. Bears in Yellowstone, particularly grizzlies, are very people-shy. Camping along Slough Creek in 2009 I saw a bear every day. I stayed away and the bear or bears moved on.
That said, I saw something last week that I have never seen in 30 years of regular travel on park roads – while driving in Grand Teton National Park, not far from Jackson, Wyoming, a big sow grizzly crossed the road. Maybe the exceptionally high water has confined some to unfamiliar habitats, maybe there's some other ecological/biological explanation. Whatever, I'll be particularly watchful this summer and fall.Jul 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm #1757302
I read a more detailed account of the accident in Yellowstone. Apparently the grizzly charged from approx. 100 yards away, after the couple had stopped, backed away, and then turned around to walk away. I always assumed that when you hear people surprising Sows with their cubs, it was always around a blind corner from merely a few yards away. I don't know much about grizzlies, and the only times I've run into bears, they were lone black bears and closer than 100 yards. This is new to meJul 8, 2011 at 6:25 pm #1757337
The effective range for bear spray is 25-30 feet.
The "surprise" distance for a grizzly in Yellowstone is 14 feet. You may not have a good enough reaction time.
–B.G.–Jul 8, 2011 at 8:25 pm #1757373
well thats the thing that strikes me Bob, apparently this grizzly's surprise distance was 100 yards. Is that normal? Talk about territorialJul 8, 2011 at 8:31 pm #1757378
Some mothers are that way.
She may have chased off some other predator, like a mountain lion, just an hour before, so she was just nervous.
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