The Bluff

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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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