Although nature is beautiful, it also holds an endless list of potential dangers. From natural disasters to poisonous animals, there are countless hazards that should be kept in mind. However, while camping three summers ago I forgot about the danger of mother bears protecting their cubs. During a trip to the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks my family and I decided to take the Big Trees Trail (shown in the pictures I took below).
Halfway through the trail, we stopped due to a group of tourists blocking the path. We soon realized that they were taking pictures of a baby bear that had been sleeping in a tree and was starting to climb down it. As my sister and I knew that wherever there’s a baby bear there’s also a mother one, we continued walking down the trail in an attempt to get away from the area. However, this was a bad idea to say the least, as people are always warned to never stray away from the group in bear territory, as it is more likely that an individual will be attacked than a family. The mother bear had been watching from a distance, and bluff charged us. In most bluff charges, a bear will only run forwards a few steps to scare off a person. This bear ran in our direction for a long distance, and then swerved slightly as it ran past us instead of attacking. As it rushed by, I felt a huge gush of wind, as if I was standing on the edge of the sidewalk and a car has just sped by me on the street.
While my family continued to walk together to the end of the trail, I realized that the bear was following us from a distance. It was extremely terrifying.
Before this had happened, I had become desensitized to the fear of bears throughout my life, as
- I had seen them so many times. I specifically remember camping in Alaska when I was younger and seeing the light of our campfire gleaming in the eyes of a Kodiak grizzly bear. Many other times I have been a dangerous distance near bears due to hiking on trails in the woods or campfires at night when bears come out.
- Bears don’t attack unless they’ve been provoked, and the percentage of people who get attacked by bears during camping trips is so minimal. However, attacks do happen (Los Angeles Times article on a fatal bear attack in Yellowstone). Another reason why bears may attack is for food, as human food is easier to access and tastes better than what they have to search for themselves. There have been countless times where I have seen people leave food out in their camp site. Despite what some people believe, bears can easily walk into campsites and take food from them. (They also break into cars if they smell food). Not only is this bad for bears, but it is also dangerous for people, as once they get used to human food, they may become aggressive when they don’t get it. To protect visitors in national parks, these bears have to be either relocated or killed for the fault of the people, not the bear.
- We have bear spray. However, I’d hope that I would never have to use it, as I would never want to cause unnecessary pain to an animal. On the day that the bluff charge happened, both of my parents carried bear spray, but neither my sister nor I had any. (Stupid, I know).
- Bears are misunderstood. Despite their bad reputation of being aggressive and threatening animals, unless they are provoked, they are surprisingly quiet and gentle.
- Bear behavior is predictable. It is usually possible to tell if a bear is angered, and if so, a person should simply slowly leave the area to prevent an attack from happening.
- Bears are just another animal trying to survive.