COLUMN: Bearing down on irrational fears

The furor created by an urban bear sighting in Abbotsford is really quite something to behold.

The furor created by an urban bear sighting is really quite something to behold.

Now, I don’t mean to be flippant. A bear wandering around a residential neighbourhood is clearly not a situation to be trifled with.

However, to those of us who have occasionally encountered the critters in the backwoods, the bear fear factor is likely a degree or two less than the average city dweller.

Now, there was a time when I used to be anxious about bears. I once spent the better part of a night huddled in a small tent, listening with dread to something stumbling and snuffling outside.

When I finally screwed up enough courage to open the tent door, I was confronted by a curious, clumsy deer with nasal congestion.

After gathering myself up from the back of the tent, where I had launched upon the face-to-face meeting with the doe, I vowed in future to confront my irrational fear of bears.

I have a favourite story of how that eventually occurred.

It took place some years later, on a fishing trip with friends at an Interior lake.

Always an early riser, I was up and about one morning, getting a campfire going, and making breakfast preparations.

I noticed movement in the treeline not far from camp, and watched as a bear shuffled out from among the pines. It wasn’t your standard-issue black, but a rather sizable brown fellow. (Same family, different colour.)

He seemed to be minding his own business, until he caught scent of my bacon and eggs, gently sizzling on the camp stove.

He promptly invited himself over.

I had scant moments to settle on a plan of action.

Running wasn’t really an option. In front of me was the bear. Scratch that route. Behind me was an ice-cold lake. Death by bear, or hypothermia…

To the left was fairly thick underbrush, and to the right, a couple of trucks.

I could have scrambled up on one of the vehicles, I suppose. But what I knew of a bear’s climbing ability, I felt that was pretty pointless, if not downright cowardly.

By now, the bruin was now at the opposite end of the picnic table, gazing fondly at my frying pan.

Somewhere, I had read that bears are frightened by loud noises.

Within my reach was a metal kettle, but I lacked any substantial metal with which to hit it.

I rapidly settled on a rather punky piece of firewood at my feet. The first few strikes were rather mufled, given the mushy condition of the wood. The noise wouldn’t have scared a squirrel.

Well, that caused me to bang away on that kettle with extreme motivation.

The bear shifted its gaze to me, and watched with growing concern.

I don’t think it was alarmed by the sound whatsoever. I’m sure it was looking at me and thinking, “That lunatic could hurt someone!”

With a final, longing look at my (our) morning meal, he swung his bulk around, and with bruin-like decorum, ambled into the underbrush.

It took another few minutes before I ceased my adrenaline-fuelled attack on the kettle, which had been reduced to a crumpled, compacted piece of tin. The deadwood was a shredded stump.

My sleepy friends were by now sticking their heads out of tents and trucks, wondering what all the commotion was about … and when breakfast would be ready.

I adopted two important principles that morning.

Bacon and eggs take precedent over irrational fear.

Bears are afraid of crazy people.

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