Thursday, August 02, 2007


I knew I was close - lots of fresh scat on the ground, seed-stippled, each heap with its own orbiting cloud of flies, the stink competing for my attention with the pervading reek of rotten fish. Turning a corner, I sent a cloud of scavenging ravens flapping into the sky; the eagles remained, unmoving but watchful of my passing. There were pug-marks in the mud, broad game-trails in the grass. Perhaps the bear was gone - or perhaps he was behind me. After three hours of stalking, that nasty eyes-on-the-back-of-my-neck feeling was stronger that ever, and my hand hovered above the holster on my hip.

I decided on one final pass through the thicket before giving up - having already seen the runs and the fish scraps, I knew that he must spend a lot of time there. Leaving open ground was a risky tactical move, though. In the thicket, I could pass right by whole squadrons of bears without ever realizing - and a pounce could bring me down before I could even draw, let alone aim.

Then, something clicked in my awareness, and 15 yards ahead, the dark shape framed by the bushes snapped into focus. Glossy black fur framed intelligent eyes that looked directly at me. For an instant, the bear and I stared at each other. His head was disconcertingly big and high. Being face to face with a large carnivore of uncertain intention concentrates the mind perfectly. The yard, the stink, even the surrounding thicket, all vanished, leaving nothing but overwhelming awareness of bear.

Before I could raise either camera or my Capsaicin-based spray, he turned- and, immediately, vanished in the thicket. I would hate to inadvertently trap a nervous bear in a confined space; I circled the thicket once, very, very warily. Then I gave up. I have no video; but I have found my bear.

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