A Bear Hunt


Pets, small children and unlucky hikers could all be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The possibility of being eaten crossed my mind.

In forest campgrounds we grilled steak and salmon and corn cobs on the fire-pit. The children toasted marshmallows and developed a version of cricket using a plank and a pinecone. Each site had a ‘nature house’ dedicated to the local environment. We collected information about bears. First, it is important to identify whether you face a black bear or a grizzly. And black bears are not necessarily black. It is important not to take a bear unawares, although with three small boys crashing around this was unlikely. The best advice was to leave no food cache or scraps or rubbish around camp.

Watchfully, we hiked the trails, swam in sparkly lakes and collected sand dollars from the shore. We fell asleep to the sound of loons calling across the water and the distant howling of coyote or wolf. In the early morning chipmunks argued in the sappy pines and threw their cones onto the tent.

There were tales from fellow travellers and rumours of ‘bear jams’ on the highway. A group of students reported a close encounter as a bear ran in front of their car, we hastily retraced their route, and found the enormous prints in the sand. An elderly couple were surprised by a grizzly rearing up right beside their motor home. The lady in the general store had a bear in her garden the previous night; it was going through her bins. Some campgrounds displayed warnings about recent bear activity. The possibility of being eaten nagged at the edges of my mind.

The salmon were spawning and the bears were coming down from the mountains. But not, apparently, anywhere near us. Perhaps the tales were a lure for tourists? “If you really want to see bears, go to the garbage dump”, several townsfolk said. And because we were desperate we made our way there. It was a surprisingly pretty place, carved out of chalk cliffs and nestled in leaning pines, but there were no bears.

Early on our final morning we went back for a last look. Our hearts were homeward set, our wish list was ticked, we had given up on the bears. Relief, not fear, flooded through us. There, in the hard-edged light, stood the familiar shape of a thousand storybooks. Its furry pelt was so dark it looked like a hole. Another padded into view and breathless moments passed as they stared right at us.
The silence was forever.

“Wow – A bear!
I had the best view
No, I did!
Could they see us?
Dad, do they have good eyesight?
Where were they going?
Can we follow?
What were they eating?
I saw it first
Wow - a bear …”


C.Dillow

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