#TrailChat: Bear It All

The funniest, scariest, weirdest bear news of the year.

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In August, a near-miss between a hiker and a grizzly in Glacier National Park became our most-shared Facebook post ever. Seems you can’t get enough of Yogi, so we rounded up the funniest, scariest, weirdest bear news of the year.

Who Has Right-of-Way?

courtesy Philip Granrud Photography
courtesy Philip Granrud Photography

A hiker narrowly avoided a grizzly bear on a narrow trail in Glacier National Park—and photographer Philip Granrud caught the whole thing on film.

Sean McKnight of Durham, North Carolina was hiking along the Highline Trail and did not hear warning yells from others in the area, the NY Daily Newsreports. Once he finally saw the grizzly bear coming toward him, McKnight clambered down the edge of the cliff to avoid the grizzly when the bear appeared 50-feet ahead of him.

“The bear had no place to go except down the trail,” McKnight told the paper. “But I did what they tell you do: Be calm, back up and don’t be aggressive.” Though he was carrying bear spray, he couldn’t reach it immediately because it was located at the bottom of his pack.

After hiding for a few minutes, the bear moved on and left McKnight alone.

Granrud, for his part, snapped several photos of the near-miss encounter from a nearby ledge. “[McKnight] could have easily fallen to his death,” he said.

Read more: NY Daily News

Rise of the Planet of the Grizzlies

image: deliff/ Wikimedia
image: deliff/ Wikimedia

Think that bear bag of yours is safe? Better think again. Grizzly bears are capable of using objects in their environment as rudimentary tools to acquire food, a new study has found.

Researchers at Washington State University’s Bear Research Education and Conservation Center gave eight grizzlies—five males, three female—the challenge of reaching a glazed donut dangling just out of reach in their enclosure. The scientists placed a stump underneath the treat to see if the bears would stand on it (spoiler: of course they did), then moved the stump aside to see if the bears would reposition it on their own. Sure enough, some—though not all—of the grizzlies succeeded in moving the stump back to where it was to retrieve a second donut.

“This study helps us understand something about the evolution of problem solving in bears and how it compares to other species, including humans. It helps us to understand the way bears think and perhaps how we might anticipate and alter our practices in backcountry places and campgrounds,” [WSU professor O. Lynne] Nelson told the Associated Press.

We’ve always known that grizzlies are Ph.Ds when it comes to finding food, but the fact that they’re able to manipulate the landscape now, too? That’s some pretty advanced skill right there. So by all means, continue to hang bear bags. Just don’t be surprised when a savvy grizzly drags a stepladder over to steal it.

Read more: CBC / Associated Press

‘Bear Scare’ Robot Debuts

image: Au1080 / YouTube
image: Au1080 / YouTube

While most of us rely on boring old bear bags or canisters to keep voracious bruins away from our foodstuffs, one Turkish farmer has taken things to a whole new level. Behold his invention: a 9-foot-tall robot on wheels that swings its arms in jaunty fashion whilst carrying an electrified chain that delivers 25,000 volts to any unlucky thing it comes in contact with:


Effective bear deterrent? Um, sure. Pure nightmare juice for local children? Almost certainly.

Too Close for Comfort?

Check out this amazing encounter in Alaska’s McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. Alaska Fish and Game employee Drew Hamilton was filming other bears fishing in the river when this positively massive brown bear ambled by, yawned, and plopped down for a sit just feet away. Watch:

McNeil River has some of the highest concentrations of wild brown bears in the world. Drew did the right thing by not panicking and asserting his presence without being aggressive or running off. The bear responded by moving off. (We can quibble all day about why he was so close to a river full of bears, but it’s part of his job, so let’s just call it a win.)

Bipedal Bear

image: Ian Bohman / YouTube
image: Ian Bohman / YouTube

Commence freak-out: A black bear has seen walking upright through a neighborhood in New Jersey. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill. Watch the footage uploaded by YouTube user Ian Bohman:

OK, now take a deep breath, everyone. Bob Considine, spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, told NBC that while this occurrence is rare, it is not impossible. They believe it is a real bear, given that it starts the video on four legs and ends on four legs when retreating back into the woods.

David Garshelis, a bear expert with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told the newscast that when bears walk like this, it usually means they have injured their front paws. Garshelis speculated that this particular bear may have partially amputated one of its paws, making it painful to walk on all fours.

Read more: NBC

More Bear for Your Buck

image: NPS
image: NPS

Just how much is that roadside bear sighting worth to you?

A new study published this week in the Journal of Environmental Management found that visitors to Yellowstone National Park would pay up to $41 on top of the standard park entrance price if they were guaranteed a bear sighting, reports WyoFile.

Not to worry, park-goers: that fee won’t be added to the $25 entrance price of the park anytime soon. Still, the study’s authors expressed surprise that those surveyed said they’d be willing to pay nearly triple in order to snap a picture of a grizzly.

Yellowstone game officials do not dissuade bears from feeding or traveling near roads and lookouts, leading to greater overall bear visibility within the park. This hands-off policy has its tradeoffs, however: In 2011, rangers spent an estimated 2,500 hours managing bear-related traffic jams, costing the park at least $50,000.

The paper estimates that if the park were to change its bear management policies to deter bears from the roads and cut down on such “bear jams,” the regional economy would lose more than $10 million a year in tourism dollars and up to 155 jobs.

Read more: WyoFile


Our in-house grizzly expert writes: Are bears Chris Sharma-good at rock-climbing? I don’t want overplay my ursine brethren’s talents on the crags, but they’re pretty damn boss at it. Don’t believe me? Watch a black bear mother and her cubs positively crushing a 5.10 (minimum) wall in Santa Elena Canyon, filmed in March:


You see those impeccable stems, grabs, and dyno moves? Whoever said you can’t pack on a few pounds and send a wall just the same doesn’t know what they’re talking about. And clearly we’re into stewardship and access, as we’re passing it on to the next generation.

Bears get vertical for all sorts of reasons—play, escape, simple traversal of landscape—but the most common reason is food. Black bears are perhaps the most agile and limber of North American bears (we get practice in trees all the time, after all). But grizzlies are known to climb the highest ridges in Glacier in search of army cutworm moths, and polar bears will ascend cliffs to munch on bird eggs. Climbing is as much in my bones as it is in yours.

So who’s better on the rock, man or bear? I’m not a betting bruin, but if shoes are out of the equation and Alex Honnold is barred from competition, I’m always betting on black (bear).

via YouTube

Pace Bear

image: YouTube
image: YouTube

Two trail runners picked up an unexpected partner near Alberta last week: a curious black bear.

After being noticed, the bear tailed the duo for several minutes while they made a slow, cautious retreat. Watch the video below to see the tense scene play out:

Bear safety experts (including our own in-house pro) will tell you that this was exactly the wrong thing for the men to do. By walking backward, they risked triggering the bear’s predatory instincts. A forceful, aggressive approach—waving your arms, shouting, and standing your ground—is usually enough to deter a black bear from the get-go.

Fortunately, the encounter ended peacefully and both bear and human lived to fight another day.

(via Viral Viral Videos)

Bear Lifeguard

image: YouTube
image: YouTube

Vali, a bear living in the Budapest Zoo, melted hearts last month. When a crow accidentally landed in a nearby pool of water, it looked for a moment as though Vali was going to pluck the bird out and devour it as hors d’oeuvres. Instead, the compassionate bear spares the crow’s life. Take a look:


That was awfully kind of Vali to help out a fellow animal, but let’s all mentally flag this moment in history as the day that the unstoppable Bear-Crow super-alliance was forged. We will surely welcome our new ursine overlords.

Bear Comeback?

image: USFWS/Wikimedia
image: USFWS/Wikimedia

California residents are accustomed to seeing the grizzly bear on the state flag, but the iconic species may soon be returning to nearby forests as well.

The Los Angeles Timesreports that the grizzly could return to the Bear Republic in a few years if a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity is approved. The petition requests that 110,000 square miles be set aside for grizzlies in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

Hunted to the brink of extinction in the continental U.S. and listed as endangered in 1975, grizzlies largely reside in the northern Rocky Mountain states of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering removing the grizzly from the Endangered Species List in the Yellowstone area, given that an estimated 700 grizzlies now share 3,400 square miles.

If the California reintroduction plan is implemented, 300 to 400 bears would take up residence in the southern Sierras across an area of 6,000 and 8,000 square miles. Critics of the plan say there just isn’t enough space in the densely-populated state.

Read more: LA Times

Lucky Bite
A Canadian wildlife specialist survived a close encounter with a grizzly bear while riding his bike alone on a popular Alberta trail.

Recounting the attack, Ethan Cardinal told the CBC that he heard the bear before he saw it and that the grizzly charged from the side. The bear pawed the Parks Canada employee in the back, knocking him from his bike, then tried to bite him. Fortunately for Cardinal, the bear chomped into a canister of bear spray inside his pack instead. The whole incident lasted about 10 seconds, Cardinal said.

Cardinal was treated for minor injuries, but escaped largely unscathed. Here he is describing the incident in further detail:

Read more: CBC

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