scouts-l Mail Archive for May of 2000: Re: Bear attack
Peter Farnham (pfarnham@ASBMB.FASEB.ORG
Wed May 24 2000 - 09:37:09 CDT
Chris' comments and the forwarding of the bear attack story should indeed
remind us all that these magnificent creatures are in fact wild animals and
we all need to be aware of the potential for attack.
I camp a lot in Shenandoah National Park, and the park has one of the
healthiest black bear populations on the east coast, with several hundred
black bears at last count. An encounter with one in the back country is
quite rare, as the species is overwhelmingly shy and retiring, particularly
around humans. I have seen precisely three in the back country over 35
years of camping in SNP, but many times more than that around the major
campgrounds. The ones around the campgrounds are attracted by human food,
and if a bear gets to be too assertive, the rangers will shoot him with a
gas gun and haul him off to a remote section of the park.
The encounters I've had with bears in SNP are as follows: caught a glimpse
of one climbing a tree once as I turned the corner of a trail. He saw me
and disappeared into the woods.
Another time, I had a scout crew on a hike; we saw a small one (probably a
yearling) off the trail just inside the park near Bentonville, VA. We
stopped and watched him for a minute; he watched us; when we began moving
slowly down the trail, he disappeared into the woods.
Third encounter: a very rainy day. I was returning to my car parked at
Elk Wallow, turned a corner, and saw a full-grown black bear grazing in a
small clearing about 50 feet away. He had not heard me coming due to the
noise of the rain and wind. I stopped and tapped a rock with my hiking
stick. He turned, saw me, thought for a second or two about what to do,
then disappeared into the woods.
What is the common theme here? In each case, the bear disappeared.
The black bear is an opportunistic omnivore. I believe the fact that I was
a full grown male human, appearing even bigger by carrying a back pack, or
was in a group, had a lot to do with the behavior of the bears in question.
Lessons for dealing with bears:
1. travel in a group.
2. make some noise as you hike (of course, you don't have to be
3. if you do encounter one, don't show fear, but don't be provocative.
4. make yourself look as big as possible.
5. if a bear comes into your campsite, don't argue--let him take/eat
whatever he wants.
6. hang everything smelly (food, soap, etc.) in a bear bag for the night.
Encountering a black bear is usually a major highlight of most scouts'
trips to SNP; believe me, they'll talk about it all their lives, and if
they can get pictures, so much the better.
If you take precautions and understand that these animals are
overwhelmingly shy and retiring, there is no need to be excessively worried
about becoming bear food. Black bear attacks on humans are EXTREMELY RARE.
I am saddened by this incident, and my thoughts are with the victim and her
family. I must also say that I am saddened at the hard necessity of having
to kill the bears involved. I do hope the two that have already been killed
are the ones responsible for the attack.
Ceremonies Team Adviser
Colonial Chapter, Amangamek Wipit Lodge 470
Order of the Arrow, BSA