Black Bear, Black Bear, What Do You See? I See a Human Looking at Me!

How can you tell the difference between deer feces and bear feces? Bear feces have bells in it…

For those of you who didn’t get that, hikers will a lot of times wear a bell when going through bear country. The reasoning is that, if the bear hears you and knows you’re around, it will make sure it keeps its distance. You see, bears don’t really like humans.


The Hike

Last month, I talked about the amazing hike I went on in Ketchikan, Alaska. Well, there was one part I left out, due to it being the most memorable part of the trip and deserving its own post.

To catch everyone up, my friend and I took a guided hike through the Tongass National Forest with a tour group. Each of the guides wore a backpack with a first aid kit, flashlights, walkie-talkies, whistles….and flares.

Apparently, the week before we arrived and on the other side of the island, a group got attacked by brown bears. Our guide informed us of this right before we set off, and assured us that they were well prepared to prevent something like that from happening again. See, there were several groups on the trails, each with their own walkie-talkie. When one spotted a bear, they would radio it in, so all the groups knew where all the bears were, and everyone would keep their distances. Should a bear start to act aggressive, the guide would light the flare to scare it off.

Us tourists felt that this was a good safety measure and we all set off.


The Meeting

So, we’re hiking and enjoying the wonderful scenery, when the guide noticed a bear cub up ahead, in a tree. But, where was its mother?

He radioed-in to a group up ahead, checking on the mother bear’s location.

The other group radioed back that the mother was a few yards down on the other side, busy trying to catch fish.

He decided that that distance was safe enough for us, and we all continued down the trail. Come to find out, the trail came right up alongside the tree where the cub was perched!

Our guide again radioed for the mother’s location, got confirmation that she hadn’t moved, and we spent a few minutes snapping photos of the fuzzball. The cub just looked down at us, not really concerned about our presence, but keeping an eye on where we were.

After we each had gotten a few pictures, we moved off about two yards, with my friend hanging back to get one last shot.

Suddenly, I heard a sound that I didn’t realize could come from a human being, and she raced over to join the group. Apparently, the other group hadn’t known which bear was the mother bear, because, at that moment, the mother popped her head from behind the tree where we had all just been standing! She was no more than five feet away from us the whole time!

We slowly backed up, giving her plenty of room. She watched us, but didn’t charge or show any signs of aggression. Once we were far enough for her satisfaction, she called up to her cub, and it scurried down the tree.

With hearts pounding, we watched as they walked off into the underbrush, grateful that it hadn’t gone differently.

No one got any pictures of the mother bear…I wonder why.

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