According to a survey of 8,281 people at Yellowstone done between years 2011 and 2014, only 52% of backpackers carried bear spray. Only 13% of day hikers carried bear spray and less than 1% of boardwalk hikers carried bear spray.
So, should you carry bear spray? Well, below are two pictures of Sawmill Pond. The first one is looking at it from the north. The second is looking at it from the south. It is below a rather large turn-out that is very popular. As you can see, it’s a beautiful place. Most people get out of their car to see if any animals are there at or in the pond. Some will even take short hikes. My previous post, Mama Bear & Cubs, was about this very spot.
A day or two before Mama Bear & Cubs, I was there when a large group of people had stopped to view this beautiful spot. What they didn’t see or know at first was this…
Well, maybe now….
Now, I’m sure you can see it.
There should be no doubt now!
As I mentioned, most people were looking at the pond. This bear was on the hill behind them. It was only about 125 or so yards away!
Now, it wasn’t coming toward us and it seemed to be by itself so I don’t think we were in any danger but…….
The point is, you never know from where they may come. Even in places that seem safe with a lot of people around, they could show up. The entire area is their habitat and their home. We are the intruders.
This bear posed no threat. After getting a drink, it went back up the mountain.
So, should we carry bear spray? Well, I think it would be safe to say the authorities think we should. “Studies show that bear spray is more than 90 percent effective in stopping an aggressive bear, especially when combined with the park’s other safety recommendations” Click the link below for more info.
At the northern end of Moose Wilson Road in the Grand Teton Nation Park, there is a special place I often go to very early in the morning. I try to go there an hour or so before sunset as well. There’s a large pull-out area for cars to park. Directly below the parking area is Sawmill Pond. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen moose, elk, osprey fishing, six different black bears and a variety of ducks and other animals in that area. I keep missing the Great Grey Owl though!
It’s well-marked with a sign that states that this area is frequented by bears and your safety cannot be guaranteed. Most people stop and stay just a few minutes especially if they don’t see an animal right away. Some will hike a short distance from the parking area while a few of us will hike a mile or so along the ridge. I like to do it an hour or so before sundown because the sun is in a perfect spot should I see elk or moose.
Two weeks ago I hiked out there a little more than an hour before sundown. I had heard three elk bugling and was hoping to get a good environmental shot of at least one of them. After about an hour, one of them showed himself and I got this shot. I got lucky again!
The sun was about a half hour from setting so I headed back. About 200 yards from the parking area, I saw a couple who were clearly in distress. The woman’s eyes were wide open and she was making gestures indicating a big bear and two small bears were close by. The man was on his cell phone trying to explain in his broken english that they were in trouble because the bears had crossed the trail right in front of them. They were afraid to move and didn’t know what to do.
I told them they were safe with me. I had bear spray and would walk with them to their car. I knew this bear was not interested in us but trying to find food. We are not their prey. She was most likely looking for berries for herself and her cubs. The folks were quite relieved when we got to their car as they continued to thank me over and over again.
By that time, a ranger had come and of course, a horde of people showed up as well. As the ranger and I talked, I kept watch for the bear. I saw it coming toward us. Now, the next few pictures are not of the quality I would like but, I’m posting them anyway. You see, we had to keep moving back because she was coming towards us so it was a little tricky trying to get the shots I wanted. I was also trying to help the ranger with crowd control. (Well, that’s my excuse….. 😉)
Here she is looking back to be sure they were following her.
This is a picture of her second cub. We noticed that it was limping and following at a slower pace.
Mom stopped coming toward us and decided to go back down to the pond area which is 35 yards below the parking area.
She continued to go along the edge of the pond right in front of us. While it was only about 35 yards away, the ranger felt we were safe as long as we stepped back just a bit.
She continued to go to our left towards a berry bush.
She then reached up to sample some of the berries.
Cub #1, the non-injured one, climbed right up into the bush. It was fun to watch as it swayed around a bit. I was wondering if the small branches would support its weight. Well, they did and it did not fall.
Soon, they seem to have their fill and started to move off behind the bush where we could no longer see them.
The next thing we noticed, mom was crossing the pond.
A minute or so after mom made it across, cub #1 swam across too.
Well, where’s cub #2?. It finally caught up to the area where mom and #1 had been but they were not in sight.
Soon #2 disappeared behind the berry bush. We couldn’t see it. All of a sudden, we heard it softly calling out to mom. It got a little louder and then even louder. It almost sounded like it was crying. Saying, where are you MOM! Then it stopped. Next, we saw this.
Yup! It swam across the pond in just about the same area as mom and #1 did.
As it got on the other side, mom came out from the trees to greet it.
She was there after all making sure #2 was safe and ok. She was being a really good Mom!
And then, they went off together into the woods.
Everyone was relieved to see them together again. I hope they find enough food to make it through the winter especially cub #2. If it does, with that drive to survive, it’s going to be an awesome adult bear.
I hope to see you next year little one!
Well, that’s my National Geographic experience for this year. I hope you enjoyed the trip with me.