Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bear at the Park?

is this bear sign?
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
As we all know, I take my dogs running (by which I mean, they run and I meander) every morning at a park I won't name because hardly anyone else ever goes there and I wish it to remain that way so that I can let the dogs roam freely, which IMHO is the natural born, gods given right of dogs. Besides, it's a pain to keep them on the leash and they're good, trained trail dogs who get along fine with other dogs and people and (mostly) come when they're called. Anyway, we've been going there four or five or sometimes even six times a week for well over a year now as have lots of others, including many readers of this blog, so, whatever with the leash thing. Then, yesterday, I noticed that there was a lot of bark scattered around - as pictured, and I do mean scattered all over the place. I went on up the trail and came to a place where the trash had been pulled out of one of the trash cans and scattered too. Now, this is, as I said, that park, so the trash was mostly condom wrappers and, weirdly, a couple empty cans of tunafish. It has never occurred to me to eat tuna out of the can at the park but, well, there you go and why not? Anyway, I kept on going for a little ways and then saw that a couple of rotten logs that usually sort of line the trail had been pulled out and kind of torn up, at which point I thought, WHOA, BEAR.

At that exact moment another dog came bounding up and I jumped some six feet in the air until I realized that it was Django's friend Bucket and, good, that meant that there were two more dogs and, probably, two more people about to show up too. I showed Bucket's owner the log and he said, huh, or something like that and he and I and the five dogs went on walking and there was nothing else to report, so I mostly forgot about it until this morning.

This morning there was a lot more bark scattered about, much closer to the parking lot. There was not a soul around all morning either and so I was a little nervy. The dogs acted perfectly normal, which is to say that Django jumped in the river and the creek and every muddy puddle and Theo bounded around like an idiot chasing squirrels and theoretical groundhogs and I took some pictures and we all went home. However, here's the question for you, oh loyal readers: Bear sign or not? And, what are the chances that my two utterly idiotic dogs would be cool around bears? Or would a bear be cool around my two utterly idiotic dogs?

Years ago my friend C and I and young(er) M and two of his friends and my then very old dog Toby and a very young Theo went camping way the hell up in Qualla Boundary. There were lots of bears there: we found fresh bear scat in the morning some 200 yards away from the tent (we did not tell the kids this, since we felt it would go badly) and, when we were hiking the next day, a guy we met told us how in the winter you could, and I quote, "see the bears running these ridges." I have always thought this was a lovely image because I immediately got a mental picture of a highly stylized mountain landscape at night with bears spaced evenly along it, running a race. Whether the bears who shat near our campsite were racing that night or not, my brave dogs completely didn't notice them. There was no barking, no whimpering, no nothing: as far as they were concerned, there were no bears. I feel that this is a healthy attitude for dogs and I want to encourage it. And, after all, I go hiking with the dogs all over the place all the time and there have probably been scores of bears hanging out right nearby and nothing has ever happened.

Which is why if, I was a sensible person, I would never have done any bear googling. But of course I did and now I'm all panicky about letting the dogs run around off leash in the possible (probable?) presence of a bear. Bah. Reassure me about bears and dogs, please.



Bears do not like dogs and try to avoid them. We have bears that come down the mountain behind our house from time to time and our dog Jane barks fiercely at them and they go out of their way to avoid her and us.

zen said...

since you know that both Theo and Django won't be attacking any wayward bear anytime soon, and that the bear will definitely detect the dogs - whether they are barking or looking for an outdoor bed to run under - any bear will be bounding off up the hill to take his chances with the interstate traffic rather than deal with dogs.

You're good, i think.