The Bluff - Jimmy Breitenstein

The Bluff

If you're one who loves to explore, it's imperative that you know what to do when you encounter wildlife, because it will happen. Each species works by a different set of rules, and no matter how accustomed you are to wild animals, they are just that, wild; wild and often unpredictable. Your response to a wild animal's action can help keep you and the animal safe, or potentially put you in harm's way. I found this to be very true as I was backpacking through Alaska. I was traveling through an area that is extremely dense with Coastal Brown Bears. I had been photographing a mother bear with two cubs when I noticed another bear nearby, sitting contently in some grass above a creek. There were pine trees behind, shrouded in mist. It was an enchanting scene so I turned my attention towards this bear and the moody landscape behind. He was sitting quite calmly, not paying me much attention when I suddenly noticed a slight change in his eyes. He abruptly got up, slid down the creek embankment and charged me. I'd never been charged by a bear before. My first instinct was to grab my camera and run, but luckily that's not what I did. Bears are extremely fast; they can outrun a horse and that is something I cannot do! Running would have triggered a predator/prey response and things would most likely have ended very badly. Instead, I remembered what I had read so many times. Trying my best to remain calm, I flipped the safety off of my bear spray and held it ready just in case. Speaking calmly to the bear, I stood my ground, keeping my eyes on him to see how he would react. Luckily this just turned out to be a bluff charge. He quickly stopped, turned around and left in the opposite direction with a few backwards glances at me. As I previously mentioned, not knowing what to do in this situation could have ended badly for myself and the bear. Had I run, my chances of being attacked would have greatly increased. Beyond the possibility of me being injured, it could have been a lot worse for the bear. Many bears are put down each year throughout North America because they've attacked a human or are perceived to be hostile. Most of these attacks are a result of a mother protecting its cubs, a bear protecting its food source (such as a carcass) or because of a surprise encounter. The majority of these scenarios can be avoided if we're aware of what's happening around us, and respond appropriately when we do encounter wildlife. Whether it's a bear, moose or mountain lion, knowing how to respond to each species and scenario will help keep us safe and the animals too!

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