Does a bear go in the wood?
People have asked that question — or a similar question — for years, and I suppose the answer is yes. But I know one thing: I’m likely to go in the woods if I see a bear walking toward me with a smile on his face.
These were my first thoughts as I read a brochure while on vacation in Western North Carolina. The brochure is titled "Hiking and Camping in Bear Country." Essentially, it's a primer on what to do and what not to do if you spot a black bear in the woods. Here are some of those tips with a few comments of my own:
"Bears are not typically aggressive, and they normally would not consider you a food source. Black bears are more likely to leave if they see you."
It's those qualifying words like "typically" and "likely" that worry me. But then I read: Don't panic. Don't try to hide. Don't run. Don’t make any sudden moves. Don't turn your back. Don't climb a tree. Don't approach any closer. Don't whip out your camera to take pictures. Don't, don't don't. ...
My answer is, “Don’t worry.”
"Avoid surprising a bear, as that can create a dangerous situation. Make your presence known by talking or singing. 'Bear bells' are somewhat effective."
Yes, I've heard about some of those "somewhat effective" bear bells being found in the deposit after a bear goes in the woods. Unless Yogi is getting a surprise birthday party to which I am invited, I will not intentionally surprise a bear.
"If a bear notices you, STOP. Stand confidently and face the bear. Allow it to see you. If a bear stands up it is not threatening, only trying to see/smell better. It will most likely leave without incident."
I certainly would try my best to stand confidently and face the bear. That's because Bill Sculley, our tour guide on one of our trips in North Carolina, said it's a myth that a person should curl up into a ball on the ground if he sees a bear approaching. "You will only make a round meal for him," he said. I got the point.
"Walk slowly backward, wave your arms, extend your backpack over your head to increase your size. To a bear, size means power."
OK, I'm not supposed to make any sudden movements, but I am supposed to wave my arms and look big and menacing. How suddenly should I wave my arms? Before or after he has my head in his mouth?
But then I read at the end: "Only 62 people have been killed by black bears in the past 100 years. You are 180 times more likely to be killed by a bee."
I feel so much better now. And if I ever have a chance to tell my grandkids about the bears and the bees, I'll tell them to watch out for the bees, too.