Bear Tracks

I saw bear tracks up on Alamocita Creek a few weeks ago, close to a waterhole some fool woman was said to be using as an outdoor bathtub, and lately I’ve been noticing reports of bear attacks. Since I frequently hike and camp in bear country, these always catch my eye on the web. A mountain biker killed in Montana was a FS LEO (what we used to call a “tree cop”). Bud Treat and a friend were riding a trail near his home when they surprised a bear. Last I heard it wasn’t clear whether the animal was a Grizzly or a Black, but whichever it was big enough to knock Treat off his bike and kill him.

The other rider, “a relative of Treat’s, whose name was not released, went to get help and was not hurt.” I’ve never been attacked by a bear but I’ve been panicked in the woods, and I know how overpowering the urge to beat feet in a crisis. But he (or she) might have picked fight over flight and used his own bike to distract the bear long enough for Treat to regain his feet. Together the two of them might fought it off.

Story says Treat was also a runner, which brings to mind a recent bear attack in New Mexico. This victim was running in a marathon through the Valles Caldera when she surprised a black  sow and her cubs. Why run a race through a wildlife refuge? The Valles Caldera has a history of environmental folly, but this was exceptionally feather-headed even for them. If there’s one thing we have in New Mexico it’s wide-open spaces, so there’s absolutely no reason to send a pack of half-naked humans stampeding through bear country during berry season.  If you come running through my pantry I’m going to be both surprised and angry too.

In both these incidents speed was a factor. The human appeared almost without warning in the bear’s “danger close” zone, triggering an event neither had the time or space to avoid. That’s one reason I disapprove of runners and bikers on the trails. Will you people please stay on the pavement? Or at least on a road where you can contend with human-operated vehicles rather than disturbing the wildlife?

It’s too bad they had to kill the mama bear, since she wasn’t at fault and  leaves three cubs the rangers will have to round up and take away to be raised in cages. The victim is rightfully sorry for this outcome, although I believe I would be more the Captain Ahab type and regret only they didn’t leave the beast alive until I was up and around so I could kill it myself.



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