Interview with a Black Bear or ‘Why I Don’t Need a Gun!’
So far, the number one question I get about the Trail is “Are you going to carry a gun?” This surprised me the first 3 or 4 times I heard it. I was totally stoked to talk about gear weight, food, boots, even bathroom topics. Packin’ heat wasn’t on my list of priorities.
For most of my former career as a Park Ranger, carrying a pistol was mandatory. And awkward. The thing is GD heavy. It used to stab me in the side ALL DAY; if I took it off I’d have to lock it up and be paranoid the entire time I couldn’t see it. I had to keep it clean and oiled. The only time I used my sidearm was to shoot a rabid skunk. Once. In 7 years. As someone who is weighing their Nalgene to see if it’s too heavy, why would I want to drag a gun along? Also, I barely have room to pack things to clean my own stanky self, much less oil and maintain a firearm.
Guns remedy fear for a lot of people and many people are afraid of going out into the woods alone. However, when you are one with the universe, AKA hiking, only your fear is the enemy. So, as part of my ‘why I don’t need a gun’ argument, I called in a ranger connection and found a bear to ask him the hard questions.
Black Bear… can I call you ‘Yogi’?
Really? Hells no, that’s a dumb name for a bear. Just call me BB.
BB, lots of folks are going to be hitting the Trail this summer which goes right through your territory, doesn’t it?
Well black bears actually live all over. Land clearing and unregulated hunting drove us into the mountains for decades, but thanks to hunting regulations and forest regrowth, we’re currently experiencing a renaissance in our old neighborhoods. It’s a great time to be a bear!
So, you mean people on the East Coast may see you living next to them?
Well, we keep to ourselves and we try to be respectful, but as long as there’s enough forest near your house, property values are going to be pretty attractive for new bear homes!
Let’s talk about the obesity epidemic in America. Are you worried for your species?
Absolutely. It used to be we had this clean Paleo style diet; foraging on plants in the spring, fruit and nuts in the summer, insects for lean protein, and the occasional small mammal or amphibian. But with us sharing more and more space with humans the youth have really started embracing a fatty Western diet.
So you see this as affecting primarily young bears?
Yearlings are just fresh out on their own; Mom isn’t around to tell them what to do. They’re going to be easy victims of marketing. When was the last time you stayed at a campground? The smell of bacon in the morning and burgers at night is irresistible. Don’t even get me started on honey buns and cupcake wrappers! Folks leave food scraps and trash around and those young bears just can’t help themselves. It’s like the bear version of a freshman 15.
Moving forward, how do you envision a plan to combat the issue?
Well, there’s very little bears can do except try to educate their young on healthy lifestyles. It’s up to people to get these horrible foods out of our forests; bagging and hanging it, disposing of trash where we can’t get to it, and definitely not feeding us! Human trash and food can cut a bear’s lifespan in half.
Readers might like to know; what should we do if we happen to meet a bear? What customs do you observe?
We don’t like being the background for your selfies; that’s just rude. We also know we’re beautiful though, so as long as you’re far enough away feel free to admire us. If you get too far up in our business, we may swat or huff at you.
Alright, any parting words for us?
Don’t feel like you’re not safe in our neighborhood. There’s no reason to bring a gun for protection; we don’t want any trouble, just Cheetos. Okay, maybe your Little Debbie snacks too. Live and let live!
Bear photo courtesy of Patrick Conelley https://www.flickr.com/photos/grepsy/9209437731/in/album-72157634488580284/
Stay tuned for a future interview with a venomous snake! Here are some legit resources for anyone interested in learning more about black bears:
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