Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Grizzly Bear Story

Male Grizzly Bear Running from My Car

It was around 5am as I drove to my bird point of Rattlesnake Rd north of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. I kept seeing elk run along side of car, so didn't think too much when something big and brown was running along my left side. I turned to look and it was a grizzly bear, his powerful arms keeping up with my car at a good 30mph. He disappeared into the creek between my car and him which worried me. Then he popped out right in front of my car and before I could click a photo, he ran so far ahead that the shot just got a blur of his butt. Ayla finally noticed him, and gave me a weird look like "What was that?" Then she scratched at her door as if saying "Let me out, I want to follow it." He ran up the mountain on the right, and I drove a little ways longer to my bird point. I took me a good 45 minutes to get out of that car, I sat there sipping coffee, and listening to the radio. I attached the bear spray to my belt and with new determination decided I was going to do at least 4 of my 16 bird points. Ayla whimpered as I left her in the car again, not being able to join in on the excitement of wandering around the bear infested hills.

I did the first point just 30 meters away then ran back to the car, out of breath and still scared. I decided to drive to a different spot and parked down by the creek to reach another point. I got out and two twin boys about 11 years old on an ATV drove up and stopped to talk. I told them what I was doing and about the bear I just saw. They said that bear has been around for a few weeks, but they didn't see him themselves yet. They had a gun holder on the ATV, these kids were smarter than me. Just talking to humans relaxed me a lot and I was able to do several more bird points before it started raining. A new courage came over me, as I nosily sang a made up song about how much I hated my job, while walking through the hills.

I talked to a rancher on the way out about the bear, he was also on an ATV. He said he saw the bear right were we were standing a few days ago in the creek on my bird transect. The bear ignored him and kept searching for food as he drove by, also with a gun attached to the ATV. He mentioned that the twins got up early every morning to work on a ranch further north, and we talked a lot about guns. He advised me not to get a gun because I would be fined several thousand dollars if I killed a grizzly bear unless I had claw marks on my body. I joked that by the time a bear made claw marks on me it would be near impossible to shoot the thing, we laughed at the irony of it. He gave me a ride back to my car balancing on the front of his ATV and returned to mending the fences on National Forest land so his cows could graze the leased land soon.

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