The Bear Went Over the Mountain

Raspberries & Wild Hydrangea

But first, Gandy had a play date with the cute little bear cub.

It was the scenario we dreaded for 15 summers, prepared for–once upon a time–but figured would never really happen in real life as we know it.

So no whistle. No walkie-talkie. No bear spray. No Ruger .44 short-barrel brush rifle. Just a skinny she-dog and her skinny human side dish.

Ann and dog are as far back in the valley as you can get on our land in the rugged parts of northeast Floyd County, and a momma bear and cub cross their path. It’s summer, after all, and the berries are getting ripe. Dog gives chase.

Heck, why not? These are, after all, only animated versions of the twenty-five-cent stuffed toys from Angels in the Attic, right? You can get to the white fluffy stuffing in five minutes or less. Let’s do it!

After all, the little one is about the size of her creek play buddy, the 130 pound golden retriever, Jesse. So Gandy, unfettered by fear or the sting of experience, leapt at the larger bear’s bare bear butt. Wife was terrified and vocal about it.

So the dog, sensing the alarm, came down the side of the hillside and broke off the chase.

But the mother bear, having deposited little Teddy a safe distance away, turns and heads down the steep hillside in pursuit of the pitiful little rodent that had the nerve to threaten her baby.

Our drill paid off: In the flash of terror with an approaching bear, Ann flailed her arms and shrieked and hooted and was generally so obnoxious that the bear decided she’d rather be back up on the top of the ridge where things are quieter and free of rodent-dogs.

Did the episode likely make the clueless caninc think twice before doing such a fool thing again?

What do you think?

IMAGE: Black Raspberries ripen along Goose Creek below the barn, wild hydrangea included in this natural floral arrangement. These bushes, by the way, are somewhere between home and the Atlantic now. But that is part of a developing story. More soon.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. My dogs are afraid of bears, most definitely. My theory is they know what cats’ claws can do, they don’t want to imagine what those bears’ claws could do. 🙂

  2. I just can’t see delicate Ann scaring off a bear! Guess she’s got inner stuff I don’t know about! Proud of her!

  3. Gandy is playful, but she also seems pretty darn smart to me, Fred!Ann did exactly the right thing to scare off the bear. Project Coyote, a national wildlife organization that works to educate communities about coexisting with coyotes and other wildlife, says that if a coyote or bear comes too close, make yourself as big, bad and LOUD as possible. Shout, wave your arms, clap your hands, open an umbrella, etc. As you mention, whistles and air horns are helpful too, if you have one.
    We all know these creatures usually fear us…but it is unnerving to come so close to large wildlife. What a great story with a happy ending, Fred!

  4. Delighted everybody–Ann, Gandy Dawg and Bear–are okey doke! Ann clearly kept her wits–and lung-power–about her! A Good Thing for those living in the wilderness. All I see in my small townish backyard are possums, squirrels, birds, the occasional fox down by the river. Whoa baby! A BEAR!!?? Love your recounting of this ENcounter.

  5. After encountering a massive male black bear (guess 400lbs) on the AT in Shenandoah NP a few years ago, I pretty much hung up my hiking boots. Put the scare in me being totally defenseless against such a monster out there all alone. My fate was completely in the bear’s paws.
    I did the waving and speaking in tongues loudly thing, caused him to pause briefly but continue a casual advance. I gave up, turned around and pretended to just walk away, and apparently he did the same thing. I looked over my shoulder and the massive black glob of fat and muscle had disappeared without a trace. Statistically black bear attacks on humans are rare, but statistics don’t help out there all alone facing the threat. I hope the encounter doesn’t dissuade Ann and Gandy from enjoying their walks in the woods in the future as my encounter did to me.

  6. Oh dear, one of these days we will have our own encounters with a bear, and I hope Spencer has enough sense to back off when the time comes, but am not sure.