Q: I am disabled Iraq war vet and I try to spend as much time as I can camping with my family. However, we are heading into the west this summer and with a larger population of bears I wonder what precautions I should take to avoid becoming interesting to a bear? Or is it the same as the rest of my fully ambulatory brethren? —William C. Self, Bloomington, IL
A: William, William, William—thank you so much for giving me a heads-up. Now I can keep a special eye out for you this summer [licks lips].
Relax, relax—I'm just yankin' yer chain. First off, thanks and a big bear hug from the entire ursine community for serving our country. I'd do it myself, but I'm not so down with the "high-and-tight" look. That involves a whole lotta shaving for me.
Secondly, you have nothing to worry about. It's highly doubtful I'll recognize your disability at all. What's more, you mentioned you'll be traveling with family, so you'll have a big group of people with you. A large, noisy group of people is probably the best thing to ensure I stay miles and miles away.
Otherwise, prepare as anybody else would: Keep a clean, smell-free camp, lock your food and smelly items in a bear canister, bear locker, or car, and make plenty of noise while hiking in bear country—that goes for both grizzlies and blacks.
So enjoy yourself in the west, and maybe you'll see me from a safe distance. Congratulations on not letting your disability keep you from the great outdoors. Some of us disabled bears have had to find ways to manage ourselves.
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