My fear of bearsFebruary 15th, 2013 | Posted by in Canada
Bears. Grizzlies. I started worrying about bears concurrently with planning my trip. The worry went something like this: And there I’d be – camping alone in the middle of a forest, curled up in my sleeping bag. Every shuffle from the trees is the threat of a bear, every gust of wind a sniff of my scent, every snapped twig a footstep approaching…
My worry was hugely exacerbated when I was kindly given a book for Christmas called Call of the Wild. The book is written by a Scot, Guy Grieve, who lived in the Interior of Alaska for a year. In it he recalls the tragic story of a man, a self-taught expert on bear behaviour, and his girlfriend who were both eaten to death by a bear in October 2003. As Grieve explains “it takes a long time to be killed by a bear, as they start on the lower limbs, buttocks and soft tissue. Bears are also keen on our glands, and seek these out with relish… [the man’s] death lasted for over an hour.”
My first thought on reading this was that “with relish” is a really inappropriate turn of phrase as it evokes an image of a bear popping open a jar of piccalilli. The second thought, confirmed by glancing down at my ample behind, was “oh goodness, can you imagine how much lower limb and buttocks I would have as a transcontinental cyclist?” That would be a very, very long lunch.
It’s at this point in trip planning that panic sets in. But no! I say, with great resolve. I must get the FACTS on bears.
So I do what I should have done months ago and look up the stats on bear attacks on Wikipedia. I am at this point on my Dad’s computer. My Dad is ironing his work shirts in the background. I read aloud:
“Around three people in the US and Canada are killed by a bear each year.” Oh, that’s not many. “One is more likely,” the page continues “to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a bear… around 90 people are killed by lightning each year.”
“Oh yes,” interjects my Dad, “you should worry about the lightning. In the prairies your metal bike and tent pole will be the tallest things for miles around.”
And suddenly my fear of bear vanishes in a flash of lightning.