The Bear you know

We hadn’t been at our campsite for very long when a truck pulled up and the driver asked if I had a minute. When I approached his vehicle, he explained that he hadn’t wanted to startle the children, but I should be aware that a bear had been spotted nearby. He was on his way to tell the park staff, and he wanted to inform other campers on his way.

Over the next few days we received more warning about the bears, with varying levels of discretion and alarm. Still, nobody seemed to be evacuating the campsite, so we stayed and kept an eye on the situation.

As nightfall approached, there had been no new bear sightings, and so we made sure our campsite and especially our tent were free of food and we retired for the night. Inevitably, the discomfort of sleeping in a tent for the first time in a while woke me up. As I lay there in the middle of the night, I thought about the bear again. Since I couldn’t see in the darkness I found my other senses were heightened. The walls of our new tent felt extra thin. Was there a new smell in the air? Well, my whole family hasn’t slept in the same room for quite a while, so that could be something else, but there were different sounds.

Something was outside. Those were definitely the sound of an animal footprints. Soon I was pretty sure that I heard it pulling grass, so it must be just a herbivore, like a deer, or was it a moose? Would a deer attract a predator to our campsite? In the morning my wife wasn’t sure if she remembered hearing panting or if it was in a dream. Do wolves pant?

Last summer we camped at Waterton Lakes and we saw a number of bears and never really lost any sleep over it, and so we didn’t think it would be a problem this time around either, but it was.

We speculated that maybe it was because in Waterton we saw the bears, we saw how mellow and disinterested in us they were. If I revise an old adage, maybe it was a case where the only thing worse than seeing a bear when you’re camping is not seeing it.

From time to time I have reason to believe that there is a bear around the corner, and the fear of encountering it can paralyse me, that is until I encounter the bear, adjust my distance and speed, and I continue on.

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