Animals eating1 people has always been an interest of mine, and bear attacks are among my favorite. As you know, I’ve got a few of my own stories, though I don ‘t know if I ever told this one. There were two of us canoe-camping in a state park in the Adirondacks. You had to park your car at a ranger station, sign in, get a canoe, and paddle across the lake to a distant spot. Turns out, I left the lights on in the car during that first part. This will become important in a moment.
So, I’m sitting there in front of a little camp fire cooking up some stew. To my right is a bag of food that I intend to hoist up on a high branch, because it is obvious that there has been a lot of recent bear activity. Suddenly, the person I was with, who was born and raised in New York City, pointed behind me and said “Look, a dog!”
So I turned around and saw a black bear about 20 feet away sitting there looking at the lake.
We both stood up to look at the bear. The bear moved behind a bush. We moved closer to the lake to get a better view. The bear moved behind another bush. We moved along the short five feet to get a closer look but the bear seemed to have disappeared.
She had fooled us into moving about 20 feet away from the bag of food. I heard a twig snap and turned just in time to see her running off with the bag into the forest!
And, just then a motor boat with a dog in front and a ranger in back came plowing into the shore. The ranger had … and I am not making this up … a Scotch on the rocks in one hand and a shot gun in the other. He scrambled out of the boat, having seen what just happened, and said “I’m going after her, stand aside!”
I said “I’ll be right behind you! By several feet!” and I followed him and his dog and his shotgun into the forest.
We found the spot the bear had eaten our food. In less than 90 seconds she took everything out of the bag and ate all the good stuff. M&Ms. Hot Chocolate. Granola. That sort of stuff. It was all opened and gone and chewed up and slimed on. And, around us for about 15 or 20 feet in every direction was litter. The remains of many other camper’s bags of food. This bear had a pattern.
“We are going to have to close this camp down,” the ranger said. “This is the last event like this we can allow here …. you’ll have to move to a new camp. Put your stuff in the canoe and I’ll show you where it is.”
I should explain that the reason the ranger came upon us when he did was to tell us that I had left the lights on in the car. The reason he had the dog and the shotgun with him is that he expected the bear to be around. This also explained the funny look he gave us when we signed up to camp in this spot!
So we put everything in the canoe, but without packing up…. we just pulled the stakes on the tent and dropped it in the canoe, and tossed our bags on it. Then we canoed back to the ranger station and I got the lights turned off in the car. Then we canoed towards the new spot, but about half way there a thunderstorm opened up on us (in the ADK’s you don’t always see them coming, as many of the lakes are in deep U-shaped glacial valleys surrounded by high mountains). So everything was soaked because it was not packed up properly.
So, we turned around and got in the car and drove to an Inn!
And at the Inn, we sat in the restaurant to dry off and get some food. And our seat was a two-person table next to a pillar. And on the pillar was a bulletin board. And on the bulletin board were clippings of every bear attack story the owners of the Inn could find. We read them all. I still remember most of them. So, in one day I got one story fer real and learned myself a bunch of others.
Which brings us to a more serious story than all of that. Many of you know that my sister, Elizabeth is a journalist who has worked the Northern Rockies and the Yellowstone area for many decades, and she’s got a story in her newspaper about a bear attack.
Bear attack survivor tells his story
ISLAND PARK, ID. — “Bear! Help!” That’s what Rich Paini, 40, remembers saying when a bear attacked him during an elk-hunting excursion in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest the morning of Saturday, Sept. 24.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Paini and his friend and hunting partner, Jon Stiehl, shared the story of the widely publicized attack while sitting at the dining room table in Paini’s cabin in the Last Chance area of Island Park. Their archery hunt began when they walked away from the cabin before sunrise and headed to the national forest. It ended at the cabin a few hours later with an Island Park Ambulance crew waiting to transport the injured Paini to a helicopter landing site and a flight to the Eastern Idaho Medical Center in Idaho Falls.
Paini described the experience as “surreal.” He said he and Stiehl, business partners at the TroutHunter Lodge in Last Chance, were heading back to Paini’s cabin through a lodgepole and aspen forest after not seeing or hearing any elk. They had seen a “remarkable” amount of wolf sign, and had just shared that they had not come across any bear sign, when they heard “an enormous commotion” in the trees and shrubs….
Which reminds me of several other stories involving bears and archery and trout. But for another time .
1That is a euphemistic for attacking, mauling, killing and, of course, consuming partly or in total.