Bear come out of hibernation a little hungry and horrifically smelly.
If you read the last post, Cascara Bark & Kumi, Our Young Goat Herding Hostess,
you’ll know that Susan and I wander the pathways of this island at will. In spite of chattering breathlessly, we take time to notice what nature is offering.
Last Tuesday, except for a goat farm at the end of the hike, we were entirely alone with Nature – finding scattered fluorescent orange tree bark, animal scat, a pile of fur and, of course, tent caterpillars.
We decided the strange scat on the trail, must be from a domestic animal. It was not fresh, but it was not aged either. It was not horse droppings.
The next morning, as “pod leader” for a cluster of about five mini-neighbourhoods, I received a message from the Emergency Response Coordinator about an adult Black Bear being seen on the island.
When tides are very low, bear and cougar will swim across the narrowed passageway to our home. Once discovered, the animal will quickly be tranquilized and taken back to the big island. These animals are not always found quickly since much of our island is undeveloped.
As I prepared the forwarded message to members of my pod, my mind went to the scat and the pile of fur Susan and I saw the day before. I thought of the baby goats and the freedom with which the nannies browsed.
However, I was completely unprepared for the story that appeared in our local paper that afternoon.
On the previous Thursday, five days before my hike with Susan, a young 14 yr old girl was taking her usual morning shortcut to the school located in our village. She tripped so stopped to examine her injured ankle.
Suddenly, a full-size black bear emerged from the foliage beside her.
She didn’t move.
Her focus was downward on the ankle. Then she saw a huge black paw. When she looked up, she faced a full grown black bear. It began to sniff her, getting close to her face. Then it began to rub against her shoulder. The bear was so close she could smell its breath.
The nudge, she said, was “gentle, kind of cozy, but hard enough to bang you around while sitting down”.
She added, “It smelled kind of gross.”
This young lady wisely did not move. With a bear, confirmed our animal control officer, a passive defense is the best defense.
After about eight minutes, the bear moaned and walked away – toward one of the most luxurious hotels on the island.
The 14 year old said, “It was strange. It was amazing to be that close, but then I kept on thinking ‘this is it, I’m going to die.'” It was later in the afternoon that she was struck with the full impact of the incident.
Thankfully our young islander was not harmed.
Since this terrifying bear-sniffing incident, being entirely uninformed, I’ve been on two good walks by myself and two lengthy hikes with friends. Now, however, I’m content to see my walking shoes sitting idly on their shelf. I’ll put them on again after another message arrives from the Emergency Response Coordinator: “It’s Gone.”