Last August I was tramping around the mountain paths of Alaska. It was only when I had completed my walk that I came across a sign telling me what to do if I encountered a bear, something, frankly, I had not given much thought to.
Further south, in the Yellowstone area, there has been a record number of grizzly bear attacks in 2020 and the National Park Service has enhanced the level of advice that it is giving to anyone foolhardy enough to offer themselves as a potential source of sport to bears.
You should “move away closely and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears”. The obvious first reaction, to run as quickly as you can, apparently is the worst thing you can do because, the helpful signage tells you. “like dogs they will chase fleeing animals”, or to climb up a tree, as the bears are far better at it than you.
It is recommended, the notice continues, that you identify yourself as a human, suggesting that you use your voice. Unfortunately, the sign doesn’t list any topics of conversation that might engage the bear in deep philosophical thought and allow you time to make your escape. Perhaps, throwing out a comment on man’s encroachment on to their natural terrain or how awful human flesh tastes might do the trick.
Finally, the notice warns, “DO NOT push a slower friend into its path”, no matter how tempting it may seem or how fraught the friendship has become. “We apologise”, it concludes, “to any “friends” who were brought on a hike as the “bait” or were sacrificed to save the group. You will be missed”.
If only I had known.