Bear bells, bear spray and other ursine lies

Bears are the badasses of the forest. Plain and simple. They’re big and they’ve got claws, but, more frightening, they have us all convinced that they only eat berries and stolen honey. The bear propaganda machine has us all lulled into a false sense of security. And, worst of all? People are in on it.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the standard “bear literature” next time you’re hiking in or staying near bear country and you’ll see that these bear collaborators have set up a system that leads unknowing visitors into the woods as sacrifices to their furry overlords like islanders led virgins into volcanoes/angry fire-gods.

Here are some of the advice highlights:

Wear a bear bell — “A bear bell is a little bell that scares off bears.” Really? A tiny little trinket that makes noise? You know, just like McDonald’s puts in their kids meal. When was the last time you picked one of those up, it chirped and you ran away screaming? Never? The bear collaborators just turned you into a happy meal for bears — an easy-to-locate happy meal for bears.

Look as big as you can — If the tiny bell fails to scare off the 300 pound fur-trimmed chainsaw (and that’s just the lowly little American Black Bear!), the experts tell you to look as big as you can. Stand up straight and put out your arms. You get it? Look like a buffet instead of a snack. Appearing as large as you can to a beast that spends most of its waking time gorging for winter.

Carry bear spray — Pepper spray for bears. If I was a bear, and I’d spent my whole life chewing on raw fish or twigs, or whatever else bears eat, I’d be thinking my food could be a little spicier. So, if you use the bear spray, you’d better hope the wind doesn’t change or you’ll go from a conveniently slow entrée to the ursine version of a Slim Jim.

Run down hill — At this point you smell like a gourmet Mexican food truck and you’re tearing ass through the woods, jingling all the way. What do the experts say next? Run downhill. Because, a bear’s front legs are shorter than their hind legs and they tend to stumble when running downhill. First of all, so do I. But, let’s say I make it down the hill, but the bear has tripped, and fallen, and rolled to the bottom of the hill in front of me. He/she is probably a little pissed now. A mauling will happen out of shear principle.

Play dead — Honestly, this is actual advice. If all else has failed, you play dead. Just like if the boogie man was after you. But, isn’t this really just giving up? It’s less pretending to be deceased and more quitting and letting the bear finish the job. Then again, considering bears can outrun us, out climb us and, most likely, outdrive us, maybe rehearsing for your final role isn’t bad advice at all.

Bears are pretty awesome. Just don’t trust them. They have us all fooled.

Author. Father. Dog owner. I stare at the wall a lot. More about me here:

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