By Bob Stockton
A Savannah Lakes Villager spotted a bear and two cubs on the Savannah Valley Trail hiking path this past Sunday afternoon.
“I was about one-half mile in on the SVT hiking path coming from the Barksdale Ferry entrance when my dogs and I came upon a large black bear with her two half-grown cubs,” said Don Webb, an active member of the Humane Society of McCormick County.
“They were basking in the sun right in the middle of the trail. Silly me! I thought bears would be hibernating in a den at this time of year. As soon as I saw them, they saw me,” Webb said.
He estimated the distance between them to be approximately 50 yards, immediately started slowly backing away and pulling his dogs along with him.
“Momma Bear made a sound like a man coughing and stood up,” Webb said. “She started walking slowly in the opposite direction, and her cubs followed. She kept looking back to make sure we were really leaving the area.
“As soon as she was out of sight, we practically ran all the way back to my car,” he said. “That was a confrontation I wanted no part of, dogs or no dogs!”
Webb expressed a need for caution for people walking in the woods.
“You never know what you might find,” he said. “For want of a better idea, I’m thinking about carrying one of those loud air horns used for boating emergencies or sailing in a fog.”
Another Villager, Stu Whipple, praised Webb for having his dogs on leash and leaving the scene as soon as possible. Whipple is a former National Park Ranger, and he offered a list of things to do and not do when confronted by a bear.
Do: face the bear when walking away; talk or shout in a loud voice to show the bear you are human rather than potential prey; stand tall (do not crouch); an air horn is a good idea;
If the bear charges, it is almost always a bluff charge; stand tall (on a log); if two or more people, stand together, raise arms, shout; when bear retreats, avoid the area; talk while walking, even if you’re alone; avoid the area, especially if you have a dog with you; remember that dogs never win bear-dog encounters.
Do not: climb a tree (bears are great tree climbers); run (bears have great predator qualities and can run very fast); look a bear in the eye (bears take it as a challenge); turn your back; throw food at the bear; or try to take a picture with any camera without a telephoto lens encouraging you to get close.