The West Old & New December Vol. II Issue XII - Page 17

Book Review For anyone planning a journey in bear country, this book should be required reading. Rocky Mountain News Bear Attacks Their Causes and Avoidance by Stephen Herrero I grew up in Montana and for that reason I read “Bear Attacks - Their Causes and Avoidance,” by Stephen Herrero. Herrero is a professor of Environmental Science and Biology at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is recognized throughout the world as a leading authority on bear ecology, behavior and attacks. After spending three hours on Chapter 2 - Sudden Encounters with Grizzlies, Chapter 3 - Provoked Attacks, Chapter 4 The Dangers of Garbage and Habituation. A little into Chapter 5 Herrero states, “ The preceding four chapters summarize the most important of my generalizations. But I can’t reduce the circumstances of injurious encounters to a simple formula. I just try to tip the odds in your favor.” Chapter 5 is about other attacks, one’s that seemingly have no relation to the above generalizations. Bears will be bears. Remembering you are in their territory is a good start. Taking a nice hike in nature in a mountain wilderness can seem idyllic, until you come across a bear. And after reading Herrero’s book you never know what kind of day that bear is having. In the long run several things I learned as a child held true. Playing dead is an all time do. Even if you get mauled a little the bear will “generally” leave you be if it thinks you are “dead.” Count yourself really lucky at that point if it throws a few leaves and dirt over you so you will ripen up for later. In this case scenario continue to play dead until it leaves and then run like hell. If it is a mama bear with some little ones, well you better find a tree you can climb. Good luck on that one if you are in a subalpine environment where all the trees are stubs. A cliff might be a good drop off point and you can hope for some nasty bumps and bruises but could live to see tomorrow. Hiking a wild trail, be prepared to hang your food and keep your camp clean. This means you don’t wear the same clothes you cooked in to bed. Of course there are no guarantees, one woman’s camp was clean as a whistle and she was pulled out of her tent by her neck and was the bears dinner. Bears were highly respected by the Native Americans who lived with them. Rarely were they killed, and only if it was a hunting party. This is an interesting point Herrero makes, hike and camp in groups of five or more. Bears don‘t like numbers. However that also did not save some of the campers in the Night of the Grizzly in Glacier Park. If a bear bothers you get the hell out of Dodge and don’t go back, period. Taking bears seriously is important. This summer driving down the street in Hot Springs, Montana I saw a bear ambling along and I followed it. I drove past the two year old and it turned around and gave me a dirty look, it wasn’t happy that I was paying attention to it. The home it was casing had garbage piled up along the side of the house. I happened to see the person who lived there later in the day and mentioned the bear. Their attitude was, “Yeah, it‘s been hanging around for days, no big deal. Likes the apples in the back yard.” Bears are a problem when they become habituated to garbage and humans. It is a big deal! After reading about the little girl taken off her back porch by a black bear while having a tea party, trust me, if a bear is not afraid of you, you should definitely be afraid of the bear. Herrero’s book could give some great tips to anyone planning that long back packing trip into the wild blue yonder of the west, but using common sense plays a big part of being in the wild. It includes being able to deal with all sorts of things that can happen such as: sudden storms (yes, snow in July), lions, other campers, and of course dealing with one of the greatest predators of all, the grizzly bear. I’m not a hiker or camper, but after reading the first few chapters the book had me locking my door when I went to bed. If you’re planning a camping trip, or a day hike, a fishing trip or a picnic in the woods, it might be a book that could save your life. In June 1967, Herrero had finished his Ph.D at the University of California, Berkely. He had loaded up his family in a Volkswagon bus and started traveling to a number of national parks. They visited Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Jasper, and Banff. Their last stop was to be Glacier National Park. “There is no way we ar going to Glacier Park,” my wife stated firmly. She had a good reason: On August 13, 1967, two young women had been killed by different grizzly bears in separate parts of Glacier. The family canceled their plans. Soon after the Herrero family settled in a rural development outside of Banff National Park. The West Old & New Page 14