Are you one of those people who thinks you will never see a wild animal (despite repeated warnings)? Well, join the club because this, my friends, was my outlook on nature…until I stayed in rural British Columbia for five weeks.
How rural, you ask? Population: 160. No road (save a rickety, two hour-long drive on an old logging road), no airport (unless you count the occasional floating aircraft), and no cell phone service. Yes, I think we can all agree that I was living it up, rural-style.
Despite its somewhat weak introduction, Bamfield Marine Station, is one helluva place. The scenery is breathtaking, the people quaint, and the seafood amazing – although none of this really measures up to my first-fifth bear encounters.
Prior to my bear experiences, I have lucky enough to enjoy a quiet lunch time with the now-defunct local newspaper (affectionately named “The Beacon”). About half-way through my peanut butter sandwich, I noticed the following words: “How to scare off bears and cougars”. My first thought was, “well, won’t this be enlightening”. Being the foolish, urban, metropolis, gal that I am, I had always assumed that the most life-preserving response would be to hope I wasn’t smelling too tasty and crawl up into a ball in the last appealing way. Apparently, I was wrong. Well, only partially.
Apparently, only black bears find the fetal position to be unapatizing, while grizzly bears and cougars will thank you for so gracefully sacrificing yourself and get on with the task of eating you. Against all better sense of my warped judgement, The Beacon then informed me that not only should I NOT be inconspicuous (with grizzlies and cougars), but rather, I should make a loud fool of myself (complete with jumping, screaming, and flapping of extremities). Also, in the case that I’m not completely satisfied with the fact that I’m advertising myself as a great dinner, I should be aware of the fact that if a flashlight is indeed within in reach, I should not use it to light my escape route, rather, I should illuminate myself just in case the wild, hungry animal has not yet noticed my ludacris dance.
Thankfully, during my five weeks in Bamfield I was never forced to use my bear spray (which I bought immediately upon finishing my previously-mentioned peanut butter sandwich), although I did run into five black bears.
Moral of the story: Don’t mess with animals that have claws or could possibly eat you. Be prepared when hiking alone. Follow local advice, because although it may sound downright stupid, it could save your life!