Friday, December 05, 2008

A Bear? No, Two Bear!

After a ridiculously perplexing day at work today I couldn't wait to hit the trail while the big fluffy snowflakes were falling.

Topaz and I headed out at 4 PM, a little later than normal and planning 10 miles, I had my flashlight along.

As we ran upon the trail, the wind howling, snowflakes driving into my eyes, my hat pulled over my ears and my neck gaiter pulled up over my face, I hear a loud..well, bellowing. I thought of a cow, a moose, then decided it must have been 'thunder snow' or a real loud car muffler on the county road.

About a mile into our run Topaz began to growl and his hair upon his croup began to stand up. Now, I knew he wasn't looking at a person. I have trained him to complete a 'down' as soon as we see a person and I knew it wasn't a dog as I have him trained to 'come' as soon as he sees a dog. I couldn't figure it out. Pretty soon he looked to the left while running 15 feet in front of me. I looked out to the left, through the bare woods as the leaves are all off of the trees and I didn't see anything. I was looking too far out. It was much closer to us than I was looking. Pretty soon I saw it. Big, black and lumbering through the woods on four legs. My mind went blank. My legs turned to noodles. My heart sank into my stomach. It's a bear. WTF? I've never ever seen a bear nor have I seen bear tracks or bear poop out on the Blue Hill Trail and I have run here almost every day for the past 4 years.

I whispered to Topaz "it's a bear..quiet, come slowly" he crept back to me and slowly we continued upon the trail, leaving the bear behind. He was about 30 feet to my left.

As we began to run I began to think about the bear. I began to wonder if a person should aggressively holler and throw something at the bear if it were to approach..or to walk away quietly or to run? Don't climb a tree!

I was spooked. Every deer that jumped out in front of us made me jump out of my skin. A little doe crossed the trail in between Topaz and I, probably 5 feet in front of me and I nearly feinted.

As we came around the trail head I heard the sound again. I was again coming near the road so it could have been a vehicle, but no sooner did I hear the bellow and I saw it..them. Two bear. Oh sweet Jesus. Two black bear lumbering through the woods. Topaz became growly and his hair again stood on end. He looked at me for a command. "Come, quiet and slow, its bear again" He obeyed and we watched. They were going to cross our path. One of the black bear stood up on his legs and snorted. I about crapped my pants. I turned around and walked away, the way we had just run. I wasn't worried about running another 5 miles around the trail the opposite direction. I had a flashlight. I just couldn't go up the trail and encounter those bear. We back tracked and ran as fast as we could. Of course the bear could change direction and cross our path in the dark; I tried not to think of that. I just kept running.

I swung into the Refuge Headquarters to see if they had been spotting bear recently but they had already closed.

Tomorrow morning I'll be looking for more.


Anonymous said...

Holy crap!

I almost crapped in my pants!

I have encountered many bears. I am like a magnet. Usually when I make noise they take off like a black streak. I am continually amazed at how fast they run.

Just don't throw a Little Debbie Brownie at one. Yep, someone did that on one of the Apostle Islands. Threw a BROWNIE at a bear. "Here Beary Beary, come after me some more!" I was thinking.

Maybe get your hands of some bear spray. Do they even sell that in Minnesota? Or start wearing a bear bell so they hear you coming. I do now all the time.

Be careful out there!

Also, what kind of training system did you use with Topaz?


Helen said...

Ohmigod - I would have fainted!! What a run. Beautiful peaceful evening to be out in the woods. And then to meet one bear... two bears... you did well to hold it together!

Take care out there.

Kel said...

I used to do volunteer stuff for a bear researcher in the Ely area several years ago, so I've had my share of encounters (including the opportunity to go into occupied bear dens in late March and count/weigh cubs). Seems very unusual that the bears aren't in hibernation by now - typically they would have called in a year and holed up a few weeks ago.

For the most part they will try to steer clear of you if they know you're there. They have poor eyesight, but a very keen sense of smell. If they stand up on their hind legs, they are usually trying to catch your scent or figure out what the heck you are rather than showing aggression.

If they do charge, they are most likely bluffing - but it will definately get your attention!! They come running straight at you at an all out sprint and stop on a dime just a few feet away, making huffing, puffing, snorting noises and demonstrating other body language that lets you know they aren't thrilled with your presence.

As you already know, don't bother running or trying to climb a tree - they are waaaaaaaay faster than people think. Sounds like you handled it well by just slowly backing off and giving them their space.

Matthew Patten said...

If you do chose to run from a bear, just make sure you are not the slowest in your group.

Maybe you should start packing heat.

Although, I have heard that shooting a bear just makes it angry.

Julie B said...

Today I read about bear and what to do when you sight them out in the woods. I guess I handled it just fine. Thank God.

Topaz was very easy to train. He's smart so it was easy for me. We went to a beginning puppy obedience class, an intermediate obedience. He did so well I put a CD, CDX UD and Agility Championship recognized by the Border Collie Association on him. Border Collies were never recognized by the AKC until the last few years. They were true working farm dogs. Now that they are recognized by AKC some are breeding them for soft shiny coats for the show ring. Too bad. They were born to herd and work, not to prance around in a ring with shiny fur and such.

Anonymous said...

I ran into a bear the year before last, when I was out cycling around noon, in mid July. I had the same reaction, I froze, then quietly turned around and began going back down/away from the bear. It just wanted to cross the road to find berries. But until you see one, face to face, whew! They are huge, and can move SO fast! Zoey

Anonymous said...

When Mike was doing Arkansas Traveler he heard what he thought was a bull. He asked the aid station volunteers about it and they told them it was a bear. I think he ran a little faster after that.

Topaz is a good doggie! So pretty too! Sure would be fun to run with you two!


Anonymous said...

Sweet Jesus, Julie. Crap your pants is right.
I continue to be amazed by your adventures, tenacity, and downright bravery!