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Thread: Bear breath! & other big critter stories.

  1. #1
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    My wife is a smart aleck.

    Our first trip, when the '90 4x4 Westy was brand new, was to the northern parts of MI, WI & MN. In the far reaches of the penninsula of MN near the Boundry Waters area, we were exploring some remote Forest Service roads. As we crested a hill, I saw a pretty fair sized black bear down near the bottom. It didn't appear to notice us.

    From our several trips into AK & NW Canada, we had often seen cases where animals would continue their activites IF you could get stopped and quiet soon enough. I stopped the Westy and shut off the engine.

    Sure enough, the bear acted like we weren't there. It shuffled along the road towards us on my side without even glancing our way. I had the window down and camera at the ready.

    Then, just as it pulled even with my door, it wheeled around and reared up on his hind legs. Both paws came down right on my window sill. I'm now looking at bear claws just inches from my arm and bear breath about a foot from my face!

    Now the new Westy has all those bells & whistles -- like electric windows! That don't work when the ignition is off. You ever try to get rid of the camera, start the engine, roll up the window & clean out your britches all at the same time? Especially to the cackling of a wife who thinks this is the funniest thing since the 3 Stooges. Smart Aleck!

    There is justice in this world, though. I finally got the ignition on and window going up. The bear just dropped down, wandered off a few feet and sat in the road watching us. With the engine going, I was a little braver and waited. Eventually the bear wandered around behind the car and up onto the passenger side bank.

    Now Missy Smart Aleck says, "Give me the camera," and started to roll her window down. As soon as the bear heard that electric window, he come charging down that bank heading straight for her side of the car. After the initial shriek that deafened me and the bear, her next comment was a very unladylike version of "Gentlemen, start your engines."
    Last edited by Capt. Mike; 11-11-2009 at 08:10 AM.

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  3. #2
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    Bear Story #2:

    I was in the Wells Gray Prov. Park area of BC Canada. Delightful place with campgrounds and a boardwalk to a beautiful set of falls. There's a parking lot near the entrance to the boardwalk for day visitors. A path runs along the gorge, with an intersection where the ones from the campground, day area, parking lot and falls all meet.

    The Admiral had gone ahead while I visited the 'little house', so I'm trailing behind. Up in the parking lot is a tiny red car and a couple of German tourists.

    As I was head along the gorge path, I met a cinnamon colored black bear coming out of the day area at that intersection. Naturally I stopped and slowly started back-tracking, talking quietly to the bear. He followed me, not in a rush, but a deliberate pace. As I backed along the gorge fence, I reached a point in the woods where there was a shortcut up to the parking lot that created a triangle of trees.

    When I hit the corner, I did a double-time up towards the parking lot. Apparently as I got out of sight behind the trees, the bear went into high gear because he appeared around the corner at a trot but when he saw me again, dropped back to that deliberate walk. When I hit the parking lot edge, same thing. I ducked back down towards the point, he sped up until he sighted me, and then back to his "stalk." I don't think having me as lunch was on his agenda, but I guess some damn fools had fed him and now he's following me for seconds.

    Meanwhile, the Germans in the parking lot, including one that had to be a 300 pounder, are all getting a big kick out of this, cameras clicking! The Admiral says two younger German men came running down the path behind her, screaming mixed German and finally English, "There's a bear chasing a man!" Then they proceeded to hide behind my wife as she headed back up the trail.

    After 2½ laps around that triangle of trees, I got enough of a lead on the bear to dash up behind the German's little rental car, putting it between me & the bear. "Y'all don't mind if I borrow your car for a minute do you?"

    When the bear came skidding around the corner, you should have seen them diving into the car. Especially the 300 pounder head first! I guess the shrieking and commotion, plus the fact the one guy was bigger than he was, convinced the bear there weren't going to be any handouts, so he wandered off.

    NOW the boss shows up! I sure wish the Germans had hung around; I'd have asked them for a copy of the pictures. She wants proof.

    [Warning: These & other wildlife stories may be funny, but are also the ragged edge of potential disaster. NEVER feed large animals, approach them, get between one & her (maybe hidden) young, or do anything more than photograph from a safe distance. Get a bigger lens!!! Another "experienced" hiker was killed by a relatively small black bear in the Smokies just this month (6/00). (Although I question "experienced" since she was sitting in a pathway and seperated from her group! Bears take paths, too, and are likely to figure you're the intruder.)]
    Last edited by Capt. Mike; 11-11-2009 at 08:11 AM.

  4. #3
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    Here's another close encounter of the furry kind.

    We had been up above the Arctic Circle on the Dempster H'way in the NWT. By going late August we were actually hitting their fall and even had snow as we crossed the mountains. It also thinned out the traffic and tourists. After a couple of days in Inuvik and a bush plane ride out to the Eskimo village of Tuktoyaktuk on the outer islands, we headed back south. [Look that one up if you want boonie camping!]

    When we pulled into our first campground, there was only one Inuit family there and they were packing up. We had the campground to ourselves. The next morning, for whatever reason, we decided to forgo the big breakfast I usually cook outside on the Coleman and instead had oatmeal & toast inside. The Admiral started dishes as I started breaking camp outside. I had the back hatch open, when a BIG black bear, about a 350 pounder, wandered by, nose in the air. I jumped back to the open sliding door and told my wife to "hand me the gun." She handed me the camera and told me to get some good pictures before it ate me. Women have different prospectives and priorities!

    But the bear wandered away and disappeared. Great! Let's get this puppy loaded! I went back to breaking down gear and was cleaning the stove when I got 'that feeling' as the hair on the back of my neck started to stand up. I looked behind me and there was Bruno walking right past the front of the camper less than 10' away.

    I jumped into the open sliding door as he did a left turn and walked down the driver's side, coming around to the open back hatch and sticking his head in with a few big sniffs. My wife's hollering, "Shoo!" and I'm trying to decide where I'm going to make a new door when he starts to crawl in. But after a couple of more sniffs, he wrinkled his nose and turned away. I knew it wasn't my breath -- I hadn't taken one in several minutes -- so maybe he found my failing deoderant not to his liking. And by luck, no food left out.

    Camping outside the normal seasons brings some spectacular wildlife opportunities as they come back to the areas the tourists have vacated. We've seen silver-tip fox within a six feet of the camper, and and once, during a snowy winter camp, had a whole family of skunks wander through including one all white with a black stripe. (We stayed very still & quiet!) But it also adds some risks as animal behavior changes with the oncoming winter. They may become very aggressive for a diminishing food supply.

    Enjoy but use extra caution.
    Last edited by Capt. Mike; 11-11-2009 at 08:12 AM.

  5. #4
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    Neighbors and my wife and I camped in our Westys in Townsend, TN (quiet side of the Smokies) a couple of weeks ago. Eleven mile loop around Cades Cove is closed to autos Wednesday and Saturday AM sunup to 10:00 AM. On a bicycle, you see a lot of wildlife. I think it's because you're faster and quieter than walking. STUPID PEOPLE: At one point were photographing a young bear up in a tree standing under it while branches were cracking. I kept riding. An other place I was face to face with a large bear, looked right at me. Fortunately, there was a couple there taking pictures. I kept going. Reminded me of the old joke: Two guys hiking came upon a bear. One guy stopped to tighten laces on his shoes. The other guy said: "What are you doing, you can't outrun a bear." To which the first guy said: "I just have to outrun you."
    GaryB

  6. #5
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    Here's an old joke about bears:

    Do you know how to tell a grizzly bear from a black bear?

    Kick it in the ass and then run climb a tree. If it climbs the tree after you, it was a black bear. If it knocks down the tree, it was a grizzly!

    And another along the same vein . . .

    A novice hiker heads into the backwoods. She was warned about black bears and Grizzlies. She read suggestions in a tour book to carry little bells tied to her shoes. She was also told to carry a can of pepper spray should one attack her.

    Later in the day she came across a local old-timer sitting on a log. After exchanging pleasantries, the young hiker noted a pile of 'scat' nearby. She asked the old timer what kind of animal made that. He walked over, picked it up, studying & sniffing it. "Black bear".

    "How can you tell?" asked the hiker.

    The old timer responded, "Black bear scat usually is full of little seeds and smells of berries. Grizzly scat has little bells in them and smells like pepper."
    Last edited by Capt. Mike; 11-11-2009 at 08:13 AM.

  7. #6
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    OhMyGod moose.

    My wife is quite the photographer and Kodak stock takes a big jump whenever we go camping. 50 rolls is not unusual. She has an assortment of lenses up to 500mm -- that's roughly 10x for those of us camera challanged. And her favorites are lighthouses and wildlife.

    We've been blessed with a lot of award-winning photos, but her favorite animal is the moose. Yet in all our trips, though we may have seen glimpses of a bull, all of her great shots had been of females and calves. She was still waiting for the big-rack bull moose.

    On our last day in the Tetons, homebound from a 1-monther into AK and NW Canada, we still hadn't seen the big bull. Last day, on the way out of the park, we came across a couple cars stopped and saw there were moose off in the tall willows. My wife grabbed the camera, which happened to have that 500mm lens on it and stood behind the Westy.

    I had stood up on the door opening to peak over the Westy and could see 'antlers' working their way parallel to the road. I saw a clear slot angling away from the rear of the Westy and pointed out to my wife that the moose should pop clear as they crossed this little slot. So she aimed the camera and was watching through the lens.

    It worked like a charm, but apparently I had forgot to mention that when it broke clear, it would only be about 25 yards away. What she saw was a big bull moose, that of course immediately turned its head to look at these strange intruders looking back at him. This, through a 500mm! 1,500 lb. of 'big critter' with a massive rack looking straight at her, magnified 10x.

    I didn't hear the camera click, just a soft, "Oh my God!" I had to remind her to take the picture -- she was frozen. But she finally had her bull moose!
    Last edited by Capt. Mike; 11-11-2009 at 08:14 AM.

  8. #7
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    Lisa and myself like to camp in remote spots where only a fool with a two wheel drive westy would go... Depending on the time of year there is a back road that is accessable off highway one called Usal Road that leads to a pretty extinct campground. One night we got there fairly late and set up our VDUB and went to sleep. Lucy, my then seven month old lab woke me up early just before 6 growling really softly. All night long we had heard the sounds that only a large animal can make in the woods. When Lucy woke us up she was growling a two gigantic bull elks ten feet away from the Westy. We laid in bed, eating pancakes and drinking coffee (chai for the wifey) watching two bull elks alternate between eating the bushes on the side of our VDUB and locking horns. It was amazing. LOVE the NATURAL WORLD!!!

  9. #8
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    I think this is the right topic, judging by the title, although the memory isn't exactly fond or funny!

    In June of this year, we were visiting Waterton Lakes National Park, our favourite stop in the Canadian Rockies. As usual, we went for a walk on the shore of Waterton lake, near the campground. Also as usual we took our little dog, and saw the customary collection of mule deer grazing by the lake. We were there a little earlier in the year than we normally are, and it hadn't occurred to us that the does were dropping their fawns and would be very protective. One doe decided that our dog was a threat, and charged us. I scooped up the dog and tried to keep a tree between us and the doe while my wife yelled at the doe to try to scare it off. I eventually got the dog far enough away to satisfy the doe that we weren't a danger. A pretty anxious few minutes, but a valuable lesson and no harm done.

    The next day, we saw the signs in town - "Warning - deer may attack your dog".

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