Saturday, September 29, 2012

June 21 - solstice, bear charge!

Snowy Owl surveying his domain with a herd of caribou passing by in the background

Went out today banding here for the second time, this time with Brad. We had a great day, banding four birds, finding four nests, seeing another grizzly, and spending the day always around caribou, of which we had ~6,000 today! Yes, six thousand – it was crazy.

Semipalmated Sandpiper, often quite a confiding species

Semipalmated Sandpiper in hand

When we got back to camp we were happy with our day, and were pretty sure that we had the best stories of the day. Of course, whenever you think that, you know you’re not going to be right. The craziest event of the day happened to Alan and Laura however, when they were on their way back from the sevens at the end of the day.
About a kilometer away from camp, they were walking near the bluff edge when ~500 meters in front of them appeared a bear – the big blonde bodybuilder from the other night. Upon cresting the ridge, they saw it, it saw them, and it immediately began loping toward them. It came forward at a deliberate speed, not a full-tilt sprint, but a sort of inevitable pace that bespoke the potential at hand. The bear kept this up until it was about 25 feet away, right in their faces.
Here it mostly stopped the forward assault and proceeded to circle them partially, sizing them up and attempting to get downwind to get a scent read. Laura tried bear spray, which is like pepper spray on steroids, but the wind was blowing across the distance between them, and swept the spray away before it reached the bear. All this time, since the animal had started the charge, Alan has had the loaded shotgun trained on the nose of the bear, safety off and a chamber in the round, ready to shoot if need be. After the first failed spray, as the bear moved more downwind of them, Laura took a couple steps diagonally toward the bear to get more upwind, and sprayed again – this time successfully! Once the spray wafted into the bear’s nostrils and it inhaled it, the animal abruptly snorted, turned, and hightailed it to the horizon, without stopping as long as they watched it.
An amazing story, and glad they’re okay! The above account is as good as I remember from the initial telling and subsequent recounting of the story, so hopefully I have not taken too much artistic license! Everyone else’s day paled in comparison to this – hard to follow that with much.
In any case, happy summer solstice, one that I’m sure Alan and Laura will remember for the rest of their lives!

Brad and my story that we thought would be the best involved good photos of Pacific Loon - not quite up to par with a bear encounter

Pacific Loon - such striking and elegant looking birds

1 comment:

Bill Ryan said...

Whoa, bear encounter. Awesome story.