Wednesday, May 23, 2018

How close is “too close” when viewing a bear?

I have lived in New Hampshire for many years and have had glimpses of black bears as they crossed my hiking paths or roads. These brief sightings were so quick I was never able to get a picture.

I also heard “Do not get too close to a bear – particularly when cubs are present”. With this caution, last Monday I was in my front yard in Bedford, and lo and behold a mother bear with four cubs following, crossed the road … a 100 or so feet in front of me.

With iPhone in hand, I stealthily walked up the road to see if I could spot where the bears entered the leafy green and dark woods.  I turned onto my neighbor’s lawn outside the forest.

No sooner did I make the turn, when over the knoll ahead was a large growling upright bear facing me with paws up ready to box.  The mother was protecting her cubs and warning me to “stay away”. With camera rolling, I was able to get a glimpse of her standing.  Then returning to all fours, she lumbered into a dark hole in the forest where she had already cleared her cubs to safety.

This was my first challenge by a bear – and a warning, “do not get too close”.

My wife joined me for a view and we watched the bear from the top of the mound ... maybe fifty feet from the dark forest hole where the bear was camouflaged in the woods. We could only see her eyes, nose, and slight body movement. The mother was in front of a tree urging her cubs to climb the tree.

As we silently watched waiting for a better picture, she unexpectedly roared while rushing a few feet out of the woods  ...  and immediately returned to her black forested cave.  She was again challenging us to keep away from her cubs ... and to leave.

This was a more vicious second warning "to leave".

This is when I realized, “too close to a bear”, means being within sight of the bear.

We retreated to the road, and walked to the other side of the woods. We could see one of the cubs clinging high in a tree.  We knew the mother was still below the treed cubs, and we nervously kept an eye on the ground level, anticipating a charging bear from the woods.

It was time to leave before my foolish bravery resulted in personal danger.

My lesson and warning to all my readers is, if you want to observe a wilderness bear, stay out of its sight ... as far away as you can.  Use your zoom camera lens, and if you do not have a zoom lens, then leave.

Remember, getting close to a bear, means staying out of sight of the bear.


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