Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hey Bear...Hey Bear!

I got your attention didn't I...

Bears...cougars...wolves...These are the 'scary' ones I always get asked about: "Aren't you scared of bears?"

"No, not really."

I've been trail running in the Rockies for the better part of the last 15 years and have limited my bear sightings (not including in-car sightings) to 1 in every 3 years - on average - and most of the time, the bear in question, doesn't even get a chance to take a look at me before I disappear around the corner...Truth is, I've been lucky...NOT! On the contrary, I'd like to think that I'm very 'bear aware' (knock on wood!).

The reality of the situation is that they are out there. I know they are because I see their tracks and marks, their scat and even smell them sometimes...Am I scared to run into them? Sure I am. But it doesn't prevent me from doing the sport I love.

Bears, like cougars, big horn sheep, elk, coyotes, wolves, moose and all the other critters that live in my backyard are part of what I love about running. Exploring, adventure, nature...wildlife - Don't worry, I'm not going to start singing Kumbaya just yet - But, in a weird kind of way, I do wish I could see more of those damned elusive furballs. Seriously. I call it my backyard...but it's actually their home, and for the amount of time I've spent outdoors, why haven't I run into (or sighted) more of them?

The answer (for me) is simple. I respect them.

A few days ago, I took off from home on a 50km loop of Mt Rundle, which spans from Canmore to Banff. It's a loop I've done many times, and I'm quite familiar with the terrain. Although it's not so far from home, it's still considered bear country - That said, not much land around hear isn't considered 'bear country'...

With my can of bear spray fastened on my chest pocket, I took off up Spray Rd, choosing to run clockwise around Rundle. On the way up, I spotted a few sheep chillin' on the side of the road - they spotted me, jumped the fence (see photo above) and climbed the cliff to get out of 'danger'. I snapped a few shots and continued along...

I was 10km from home and cruising...I turned East onto the Goat Creek trail towards Banff - a fast 15km of fireroad running lay ahead. Once in Banff, I would cross the Banff Springs golf course, and return via Banff Trail (Rundle riverside) for another 15km of technical forest trail back home via the Canmore Nordic Centre. It was a cool, wet day in the mountains - no tourists or hikers out today - just me. I normally try to recruit a partner for my long runs as it makes for good company - easier to make noise too - but no such luck this time. Despite the fast pace, I kept an active eye out for wildlife (fresh) poop mounds, no big paw prints (other than dog that is)...nothing. All clear!

After all these years of trail running out here, I think that my subconscious is always in wildlife-scan-mode. If I jump over a mud puddle, I look for paw prints. If I see scat on the trail, I assess which animal it's from, and how fresh it is. As I approach a corner or a stream, I hear myself yell: "Hey Bear, Heeeeyyyyyy Beeeaaaarrrr, Hey Bear!" I ease up on the pace...peak around the corner...coast is clear! Every once in a while I'll get spooked a bit, and look around, behind, or up high towards a cliff...I'll yell over and over again...just to make sure...Besides, it's always a good opportunity to practice drawing my bear spray - In fact, I bet I could challenge Clint on a few bear spray duels. "Come on Clint...Don't make me peppa yo ass mo fo!"

OK, so it may not be a bombproof system - but it's worked for me so far...

...Knock on wood!


Derrick said...

Bears?....we get a few of them around here.

What scares me the most around these parts though is Lyme Disease carrying ticks.

...Just got one tested a few weeks ago.

Phil said...


I suppose that's one of the benefits of living in the c-c-c-c-cold Rockies these days...not so many ticks!

Sue said...

That's a great attitude to have about the wildlife and bears in your backyard. Living in the Yukon my dogs chased a cub up a tree on one of our runs...Holy shit! Before I had time to think out come the dogs running past me with tails between their legs and momma bear on a charge right for me. After my life flashed before my eyes I yelled for my dogs and they came running back at the bear...needless to say I ran like a mad woman for what seemed like miles before I stopped to catch my breath. Stay safe out there.