Bear stand-off in Canada
Note: This happened a few years ago while I was camped at Boylston Provincial Park near Guysborough, Nova Scotia. I wrote it down for my dad who wanted to know what happened and then I buried it because I didn’t want to relive it. Thankfully enough time has passed to share.
I took my usual morning hike from the campsite with my coffee… Walked up an abandoned logging road that was overgrown. It slopes straightly up the mountain, I figured it looped around the lake in the area since it bordered it.
About half-way up my spidey sense went off and nudged me to turn around and look down the slope. At that very moment I saw a Black bear cross onto the path about a half-mile where I was earlier and it was sniffing around. I figured it would move on once it smelled a human as most usually do.
Only thing I could really do was keep walking to put distance between us and since I was up a slope, it hadn’t seen me yet. I kept going, turning now and then to keep an eye on it. After looking back a couple more times, it became obvious it was following my scent and closing the distance between us.
With a sickening thud in my heart I knew it was tracking me down.
I quickened my pace to get further away… until I hit an unexpected dead end on the logging road. The forest is very thick and brambly, so there was no other way out except back. I turned around to assess where the bear was.
By then it was about a couple hundred yards away down the slope and could finally see me… it started running towards me.
That’s when I knew I was in trouble so I tried to quickly contact the relay service for the deaf via my phone and it didn’t work. I texted a 911 to close friend and gave her the number of the ranger to call and come and scare the bear away on his quad vehicle he roams around on.
By then the bear was about 20-30 feet away so I put the phone away to focus. I looked around and saw a huge branch — almost the size of a small log — I grabbed and raised it above my head to make myself look bigger and stood firm.
That did the trick; the bear suddenly stopped and we were at a standoff. Up close, I could tell it was scrawny and had yellow patches on its fur and something was wrong or off about it.
I talked in a firm voice, shooing it away, go on, get outta here.
After a minute of the standoff with no leeway, I got pissed and told the bear to get the hell out of here and leave me alone. The anger in my voice apparently got through — the bear stopped swaying and melted into the woods.
I slowly made my way back down the trail right by where he went into the woods, all the while talking loudly saying go away, etc. still holding the branch up, etc.
Eventually I made it out. The ranger finally came around and I told him what happened. He let out a low whistle, saying that wasn’t good and it was unusual; he would likely have to find and kill it. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police soon pulled up to my campsite to make sure I was okay so that was nice (and interesting if a tad too late). Obviously my close friend had gotten in touch with Canada’s version of 911 after I put my phone away.
He was initially smirking and shaking his head, probably thinking a silly American got spooked by a bear. After I told him what happened, his smile was gone and he thought I was lucky to get away.
Told them both I wasn’t going back on abandoned trails or such until I had a good supply of bear mace!
And if you were wondering, YES, I was scared shitless seeing that bear running at me. There is no other feeling like it — a primal awareness of an apex predator charging you and with your life in the balance. Was I gonna make it or not?
Time stopped and space morphed into a singular moment of extraordinary clarity.
Everything in the world fell away and it was just me and the bear. I distinctly remember how super sharp everything was in focus and how the air felt crystal clear.1
In a way it was an intensely spiritual moment.
After I left camp I stopped at a hunting goods store to get bear mace. A bear expert happened to be there and I shared what happened to get his thoughts. He said there was clearly something wrong with the bear or it was sick; it was highly unusual for bears in the area to come after humans. I told him about the bear swaying during the standoff and he said it was a sign of aggression. Ugh.
I remember it taking awhile to process what happened and I didn’t feel too good. I must have compartmentalized the whole thing and shunted off to the side and it wasn’t healthy.
it wasn’t until a few days later when I was at a different (and very relaxing) campground that I was able to truly unwind and process what happened. I ended up vomiting as if expunging the fear embedded within.
After that I started feeling better. So very strange.
(It’s interesting how I still get this sick feeling in my stomach whenever I reflect back on this even years later…)
Later I found out in fight-or-flight mode, physiological changes in the body include enhanced vision, clarity, etc. which would explain why everything was so damned sharp and slow-motion in that moment.↩︎
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