While my husband and I were packing up our SUV to return home from Thanksgiving in the mountains, we were greeted with quite a surprise. Our vehicle was covered with dirt and dust, but there appeared to be a pattern or some sort of order to the dirty smudges. We looked closer and noted that the smudges were actually paw prints. Fairly large paw prints. Incredulous, we looked at each other….BEAR!
We walked around the SUV and saw how carefully the little guy had gone around the vehicle and looked in the windows. There were prints on the back bumper where he must have raised himself up to look in the back window. There was another print on the passenger side window where he supported himself to look inside. There were even nose prints on the window where he must have pressed in even closer to get a better look.
At first I felt a little creeped out that this guy was all over our car as we slept in the cabin just a few feet away. And then I was filled with wonder that this beautiful animal had been so close to us, and I wished I could have seen him. I asked my husband not to wash the car so I could admire the prints for a while. The bear was so careful and meticulous in his exploration, he never left even a small scratch with his claws on the paint.
It’s funny, just the previous evening we watched a documentary about black bears in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was surprised to learn that the adult females were only 150 pounds, and the males were about 250. The documentary also described their habits, their patterns, their behaviour, and most importantly, what to do if you happen to come across a bear in the woods. I think that bears get a bad rap for being vicious, blood thirsty aggressive creatures.
I used to be afraid of bears and the possibility that I might come across one while hiking. Now that I understand them a little better, I’m no longer afraid. Instead, I have come to appreciate them, and if I came across one in the woods, I think I would be overwhelmed with the honor of such a rare opportunity and privilege. And then I might wet my pants, but I suppose that’s another fear I have to conquer!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP