Do bears even exist?

Published 11:45 am Tuesday, August 9, 2022

I’ve been hearing a lot about bear numbers increasing in our area but I’m not buying it. The extent to which our local leaders and biologists are extending this lie is crazy too. It seems they have told everyone I know to tell me about their interesting bear story. All the while I have never had a bear encounter tromping around our woods in the last three decades. 


I’m starting to feel like I’m in a snipe hunt. From an early age, I was taught to be bear aware. Keeping a clean campsite and not leaving food out was our way of keeping bears away. I’m beginning to wonder if that was just a way for my parents to make us keep a tidy camp. 

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Then I hear about these folks that have bee hives complaining about bears getting into their honey. They supposedly do incredible damage, destroy bee boxes, and ruin honey. Are we sure it’s bears? Or is it “Big Honey” trying to raise their prices? 


Not only has this bear hysteria been preached to me by my parents and bee people, but my own brother and niece are in on it, too. 


They made up this story of a bear going through their group camp near Brevard, N.C. They could have just said they saw a bear. Instead, they told a tall tale of bears chomping through cans of green beans, slurping Capri Suns, and sitting on their haunches to savor the kiddie charcuterie known as pizza lunchables. 


I want to believe all these people I love and respect, but I’m starting to take it personally. For three weeks I hiked the Appalachian Trail in  Virginia. Before we started at the northern end of Shenandoah National Park, the park rangers told us the bears were active. 


“Do you think we will see one?” I asked the Ranger. 


“Absolutely,” he responded. 


For the next three weeks, everyone we talked to told me about their bear encounters. One man even yelled behind our hut, “There’s a mother bear and a cub!” He repeated this as he walked to the hut and then asked if I saw them. Of course, I didn’t see them because they don’t exist. 


As you can tell, this is almost starting to hurt my feelings. The bear sightings I have had are questionable at best. The black bears I have “seen” could have easily been black labs. The grizzly bear sightings I’ve had out west had all the makings of a joke. 


In Yellowstone, someone asked if I could see a brown dot a mile away with my binoculars. Everyone around me was amazed and I fell into peer pressure feigning amazement. I can’t help but think the brown dot I was looking at was probably a stump, and the amazed crowd around me was a practical joke that laughed as I pulled away. 


This week I am in a bear Mecca: Glacier National Park. After three days I have still not seen a bear. I have four more days to see a bear. That is if they even exist.  


Although this hidden lake overlook in Glacier National Park is a top place to see grizzlies, all that I could see was this wonderful view.