Tuesday, August 27, 2019
I have heard it said how dangerous bears are in the wild but our many encounters over the last 22+ years have not borne that out. Either we have been extremely lucky or there are other factors that come into play. First off I don't want to demean wildlife professionals but our many experiences do not match what they warn about. We don't feed them but we clearly respect them as we encounter them and they equally respect us. We have found they make better neighbors than the majority of humans do.
I could tell story after story where we have interacted with the wild bears that goes against everything that the professionals contend. Had we adhered to their advice I seriously doubt that we would hold the opinion we currently do. It is pretty much the same with mountain lions, our encounters don't line up with what the experts say. The experts it seems want to put fear into us citizens so we will keep well clear of bears. That is very good advice but we have had many unexpected encounters where we were in close before we knew it.
They are especially dangerous they say when a mother is with cubs. We have had several mothers with cubs who used our presence to train the cubs to avoid humans. Our German Shepherd Bozwell and I were used by one mother to train her cubs a few years ago. We stood in place and the mother sat down about 20' away and when the 8-10# cubs would get within a few feet of us she would warn them and they would scamper up a tree. That went on for half an hour and wasn't the only time a similar situation like that occurred.
When we encounter a bear or mountain lion we remain calm but not fearful. I believe wild animals have the ability to sense fear or if you mean them harm. Sometimes when we encounter them suddenly we can get startled but quickly calm ourselves down and ALWAYS show the animal respect. We do not close the distance between us and respect their territory and safe zone. We talk to them in our normal tone saying positive words. They may not understand the words but recognize we are humans and sense we mean them no harm.
Bears eyesight is poor so they may not recognize us right away but their sense of smell is very acute. I have had them (not us) advance toward us to get a good smell and in some cases close up. If they lower their head it indicates that they feel threatened and if they swing it from side to side they feel very threatened. We then take the imitative and slowly back away to give them more space.
Mountain lions tend to coil on the ground when surprised and lay their ears flat and hiss and snarl. We make ourselves look as big as possible and do not make any threatening moves and let them decide what they want to do. Thus far they have always left quickly. Being 8-10' from a 160# mountain lion being defensive can be daunting but it is important to keep calm. Like bears they are curious and often surprised at our sudden presence so given time they usually depart.
I write this because I have so many friends who are highly fearful over bears or lions. In my opinion I believe encounters don't have to have undesirable results if you just RESPECT the animal and keep calm. High pitched tones, quick movements, trying to take a selfie, throwing something at the animal or breaking into a run would possibly trigger a bad reaction from the animal. Staying calm, keeping your head and being observant and respectful go a long way to having an encounter you will be able to tell family and friends about. To me the most dangerous bear is one that someone else has been feeding. They get far to close expecting something to eat and these you have to be very wary of because they can get aggressive very quickly.
We do not go looking for encounters but living remotely as we do they happen when we least expect it. I hope these comments will facilitate equally successful encounters for others if they happen.