In my weekly “Adk News Briefing” newsletter, I asked readers to share stories of backcountry bear encounters. Here are a few that came in via email (and one was kind enough to share some skat photos too):
A DIFFERENT KIND OF EXPOSURE: My wife Brenda and I have been wilderness camping for forty years in the Daks. We advanced from backpacking to canoe camping to small boat camping over many years. We finally got a pontoon boat so we could take our two dogs and as many “creature comforts” as we wanted. One of our favorite boat-in camping lakes is Lower Saranac. In 2018 we received a notice from DEC prior to our departure that there was a bear problem. We were used to bears in our back yard in Pennsylvania so we didn’t give it a second thought. We had an aluminum clad lockable box to store our 50 pounds (two other couples were going to join us later) of food.
That night I took the air horn (required by NY law for boaters) into the tent with me. In the middle of the night the dogs alerted us to activity near the picnic table. I climbed out of the tent buck naked with my head lamp and air horn. A few blasts from the horn and a bear cub scampered off. As I stood there In my birthday suit I hoped that no one was videoing this for YouTube.
The next morning Brenda said, “Dave, where did you put the food box?” We soon realized that mama bear had been there too. She had chewed on and punctured the corners of the food box. She had then drug the box fifty feet down the path along the lake and lost control of it. It tumbled down the bank and came to rest just short of the water.
Some of distant camping neighbors were less prepared and had to go home because their food was gone. We stayed and enjoyed the rest of the week.
We bought a more substantial metal box.
— Dave Houck
SOLITARY EXPERIENCE: In the summer of 1998, I decided to hike the entire Northville-Placid trail. That Saturday, my darling wife Elisa dropped me and my backpack off at the southern trailhead with plans to meet the following Saturday, 133 miles away in Lake Placid, to celebrate the July 4th weekend. The blackflies, mosquitoes and summer heat soon took their toll. By Wednesday, I had hiked over 80 miles and was exhausted. I took off my pack, sat on a rock and, as still as a statue, I stared at my hiking boots wondering how I would ever finish the remaining 50 miles. Within minutes, a baby black bear ambled to within five yards of me, looking like an adorable teddy bear that had come to life. When the cub realized that he wasn’t alone, he attempted to hide behind a solitary milkweed. He kept peering over the dusty pink blossoms to look at me, apparently believing that he was concealed. He eventually became bored and trotted off, presumably to join his mother who would have been much less cute had we met. I enthusiastically hiked the remainder of the trail, hoping for another wildlife encounter. The only animals I met during the rest of the trip were more black flies and mosquitoes, but those brief minutes with the cub made it my most memorable hiking trip.
CALLING CARD: My husband, son, and I were hiking on a short 2 mile trail in Cranberry Lake this past Labor Day. We saw multiple spots of bear scat, but none fresh. Where there is bear poop there probably is a bear! Sure enough a mile in we heard this crashing, limb breaking noise from up high. Two bear cubs came flying down the tree one by one and scurried off into the deep woods. No mama in sight, we hightailed it right out of there! My heart was racing and my legs were hurting! :O)
— Kimberly Smith (photo provided)