The Bear Came Over the Mountain

Again.  Same place, same time of year as last. And Gandy the dog discovered it first. Actually, it was a THEM.

She always runs ahead of us down the road the follows the edge of the steep woods along the pasture that tumbles along beside Nameless Creek.

Usually, when she bursts away from us, bounding on her back legs like a pronking antelope, it’s a squirrel she’s spotted just at the bend of the road.

So we didn’t think much about it when she bolted around the curve today just ahead of us.

Fortunately, she came into view quickly,  just as she was chasing a bear cub up a tree, the mother closing fast down on the dog.

Reflexively, I whistled and hooted and hollered GANDY COME! and she broke off the chase and zipped past us 40 miles an hour, with four human appendages flailing the wind at a much lower rate of speed but in the same direction.

The bear wanted no more to do with us than we did with her or her baby (the smallest cub I’ve ever seen, probably just a few weeks old.)

In this same place last year, the mother bear chased the dog that raced past the wife who reached max heart rate, looking over her shoulder at the stereotypical lurching run of a large black bear eating up the intervening distance.

Luckily, once sure her cub was no longer threatened, momma bear gave up the chase. A few weeks later, Ann returned to resting heart rate.

Such is life in the woods.

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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. OMG, Fred! I missed reading about the bear encounter last year. Wow. While cubs are small, it must be pretty scary to be out with Gandy. I sure wish she would stick to chasing things as small as a squirrel.

  2. Fred, we live in Bear Country here as well, and we’re always being cautioned not to break into a run if we encounter a bear because it will cause it to chase–and a bear can outrun a man. The town literature here says to speak calmly and loudly, raise your arms to appear larger, and back away. Luckily, I’ve only seen a bear at a distance so I didn’t have to make a choice either way!