News broke last week of a man in Oregon who, while hiking on a scenic trail there, came upon a tiny bear cub near death.
The hiker picked up the cub, gave it CPR and took it to a wildlife center where it is being cared for.
The man has been criticized for interfering with wildlife (the cub cannot be released back into the wild), which reportedly could have earned him up to $6,000 in fines and a year in jail. Law enforcement gave him a warning, acknowledging his good intentions and that he likely saved the cub’s life.
I can see both sides of that one, and I suspect the investigating officers could too, given their light treatment of the matter.
Here in Williamson County, we coexist with all kinds of wild animals. The deer in my yard pretty much give me a “don’t mind me” look as I walk out to get the morning paper. It’s much the same with the turkeys.
Now that I don’t have a dog, the occasional coyotes don’t bother me. When I had a dog, and we came up on a couple of coyotes during our walk one morning, I gently – and quickly – guided the dog back home before he saw them so he would not have the chance to go into the hysterical barking that would always accompany any sighting of a living being.
Of course I always steer clear of the skunks. The aforementioned dog once had an unfortunate encounter with one, with the skunk showing the dog exactly what he thought of him and his barking.
The smell lingered for weeks.
As far as I know, we don’t have bears around here, but my wife and I had our own experience with them just last August. I have purposefully waited a considerable amount of time to share this story because I didn’t want anyone to think I was coming home from a vacation and over-sensationalizing.
Some seven months later, being of sound mind, I assure you I am not.
We were in Waterton Lakes Natonal Park in Canada, which borders Glacier National Park in Montana, which would be our next stop. We had spent the night there and were going on a short hike before heading back into the U.S.
You could hardly call it a hike – it was more like a stroll. It was half-mile on a trail to see a waterfall, then a half-mile back.
We soon figured out we had taken the wrong trail. Backcountry campers were passing us, and we knew we had walked at least a half-mile, with no waterfall to be found. We were hardly distraught, however, because it was a beautiful trail looking down on a river, with mountains in the distance.
We walked a little more, but since there was no real destination, decided to walk back to where we started. Not long after we did so, my wife, who was a few steps ahead of me, turned around and looked at me with wide eyes.
“Yes?” I said, in a voice that might have been the slightest bit patronizing, wondering why she had turned around so suddenly.
In a high-pitched voice I have heard only a handful of times during our marriage, she explained to me that there were a mamma bear and two cubs walking toward us on the trail.
To which I answered, “Really?”
I’m not saying I didn’t believe her, but I needed to verify.
I did. They were up ahead of us, probably 20 -30 yards away, walking toward us at a pretty good pace.
I told my wife we needed to turn around and walk the opposite direction. We began to walk at a pretty nice pace too.
I tried to stay calm but I had no idea what to do. We had not seen another person for a good half-hour. We did not have our phones with us and certainly did not have any of the bear repellent we had seen in some stores.
My wife was not hysterical, by any means, but she was rattled. I told her perhaps we should climb above the trail a bit and watch to see if Mamma and the cubs would walk by without seeing us.
It dawned on me, however, that she would not be enslaved to a trail and would, hopefully, meander down toward the river or off into the woods.
We continued to walk but we slowed down, looking behind us periodically to see if we could see them. We could not.
After about 20 minutes of walking since our having seen the bears, three young men rode up on bicycles. They had come from the parking lot where we had started and had not seen them.
One of them was a native of the area and told us we should start walking back. He said he felt certain the mamma bear had trailed off in another direction with the cubs following.
He told us we should talk loudly and clap our hands, as this would alert the bears that we were there. The sound of our voices and clapping would send them scampering, he said.
So we began to cautiously walk back, while talking (loudly) and clapping, clapping and talking.
We included some prayers in our loud talking. We came upon a few other hikers coming toward us, all of whom told us they had seen no bears.
We breathed a huge sigh of relief when the parking lot was in sight.
It is definitely one of those “you had to be there” moments for full appreciation, and no, I did not take pictures, although I wish I could have. Since we had neither a phone nor a camera, it is a moot point anyway, but I do regret not having any evidence.
On future hikes and/or strolls in areas where bears might reside, they will know I’m coming. I’ll be talking and clapping from the get-go.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, husband of one, father of three, father-in-law of two and soon-to- be grandfather of two. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.