Bear PTSD

5:14 p.m. on August 2, 2018 (EDT)
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Would be curious to hear of other folks' experience with rebounding mentally from major bear encounters. Had a large and fearless one come into camp while out in the Pemi with my 7 yo the other night. He made several pushes directly at us over a period of time before I was able to drive him off, but it seems to have left a mark, heh. How long until I stop seeing this giant bear coming at me when I close my eyes?

Note: I'm willing to stipulate that you've seen bigger, more dangerous bears and were far braver so no need to tell us that. What I'm after is first hand experience with trying not to wet your pants type encounters and whether there's hope for me or if I'm done going out there without a flame thrower ;)

5:54 p.m. on August 2, 2018 (EDT)
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In fact, just the opposite.  We've only seen (probably)  smaller bears that ran away the minute they saw us.  I have no idea how I would react these days to a bear that wasn't immediately retreating. 

When I was much younger (just about 50 years ago) I did have a few bear encounters of the kind you describe...and I was too young and stupid to think about them much. 

3:40 a.m. on August 3, 2018 (EDT)
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Pant crap scary story there!

Bears visit Sierra BC campers far more often that folks realize.  I think bears have "Yogi" routes - they know where we camp, and have circuits they patrol to check these locations. Probably 20% of my camps along popular venues have evidence of a nightly visit, albeit I detect their presence at the moment they are in camp only once or twice a season.  I had only one persistent bear, ever, and scared it off with an M-80 firecracker - probably scared half the campers in the park, too!  But that was back in the 1980s.  I don't recall being all that un-nerved by the incident, but chock that up to me not playing life with a full deck.  I guess the best way to recover is putting it in perspective: you're more likely to get struck by a bolt from the sky.  You are probably already practicing proper woodsman technique to reduce your lure to bears.  Realize you got this far without issue, and just carry on. 

You may consider adding a dog to the group.

Ed

8:46 a.m. on August 3, 2018 (EDT)
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My encounters with anything beyond one scampering away when I make a lot of noise were in them eighties and early nineties. Similar to the other posts I was too young and dumb to think much more about it. Interested to see other responses. I'm heading into a recent bear trouble area this weekend.

11:01 a.m. on August 3, 2018 (EDT)
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Wow man, that sucks. I wish had some more intelligent or useful response.

I've had several semi-sketchy encounters over the years but never such aggression towards my person. I've had property damage twice (stolen backpack and shredded tent) but the only really disturbing encounter was once when Susan and I had a bear come sit in our campsite and stare at us from about 20 feet away. It didn't try to get into anything but it was so unnerving that we packed up and left while it watched. We hiked back to our car in the dark using headlamps (which luckily was only 2-3 miles away at that point) and that was one spooky walk. 

More disturbing to me is that a long time favorite tent spot was the site of an in-tent mauling of an AT thru hiker two years ago and now I will not camp within 4 miles of that spot. 

I agree with Ed though, consider the odds and how much time you've spent in bear country with no incident. I use that approach for myself all the time. 

2:21 p.m. on August 3, 2018 (EDT)
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my scariest encounter was with a moose, not a bear. Have had bear toy with a food barrel, near the tent, but that was the extent of it. it might give you comfort to bring a can of bear spray. 

2:40 p.m. on August 3, 2018 (EDT)
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I was going to say the same as Andrew, and echo others. Bears have always been quite spooked/headed the other way quickly. Ive been more scared by moose, coyotes, and of all things, a fox once. I'm also thinking, correct me if I'm wrong, but there must be a huge side of the fear coming from the fact that you had a child with you. Theres an acceptance of risk when your out on your own, that you are responsible for your own safety, but when you bring your kid with you the responsibility to take care of another human (one who potentially may not know some of the dangers) can be a little frightening. I imagine its a completely different mind state. Flame thrower it is.

6:33 p.m. on August 3, 2018 (EDT)
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The lack of fear plus the repeated attempts to drive us away from camp so he could have our stuff lead me to assume this bear was acclimated to people by the camp site the forest service runs near by. Every other bear I have seen has turned tail, but I almost never see them. The woods is full of them. Just don't see anything other than prints and poop.

This wasn't the sort of spot that other people would camp, up on a ridge off the side of the trail, so he probably followed his nose to find us. I'm wondering if he came because he smelled people. I know my clothes were a lot smellier than our food. That is usually what protects me ;)

11:46 a.m. on August 5, 2018 (EDT)
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I was scared to death the 1st time I camped in bear territory, little to no sleep and when a branch fell and hit the corner of the tent and my foot. Well you guessed it I was hollering like no other. Then when I ran head long into one on AT , I was prepared and well we had a discussion and he saw it my way! Thank God for that.

Me also just to dumb to know any better! Does make you think though.

here is a funny sent by my uncle.


DFBA2CD5-AB0C-4162-9528-1E3922718A6B.png

12:13 p.m. on August 5, 2018 (EDT)
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Had a bear come and sniff at my head when I was sleeping in the open years ago in Yosemite. I froze, the bear went away, I went back to sleep. No PTSD.

12:47 p.m. on August 5, 2018 (EDT)
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i've had about 10 bear sightings and a few very close-up encounters. as others have said, they have mostly run away or were disinterested (once walked within 15 feet of one as it sucked down blueberries, didn't even look up). two stand out as more frightening.

the first time i saw a bear it was across a creek from my camp at sundown. i had never seen one in the wild and it scared me pretty good. i often go out alone and really wasn't sure what to do. would it cross the creek and check me out? how could i know it wouldn't cross the creek at a point out of view and check me out? etc. i was spooked for a few hours, but eventually decided that if it was going to "get me" it would, weather i was asleep or awake so i went to bed!

my second bear encounter was very close up and the bear didn't run away. it backed up against a tree and was "huffing" and popping his jaw at me, we had what felt like a 10 minute stand off until i (foolishly?) continued in my direction talking calmly and walked (not ran) as quickly as i could out of the area. my heart was pounding for a mile or so but i actually enjoyed the experience and considered it an honor in a way.

your tale sounds scarier and the bear fairly aggressive - add the child to the event and i wouldn't blame you for being a bit freaked out. that said, those encounters are pretty rare and i would say the odds of it happening again are pretty low.

4:19 p.m. on August 5, 2018 (EDT)
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I was thinking about this thread briefly on this weekend's jaunt to one of my "back yard" areas that has been having some bear trouble.  The AT passes through and with those crowds and shelters one bear has (according to an AT ridgerunner) got about 70 bags in the spring/early summer.  They brought in bear boxes and a temporary electric fence and he moved down to the next shelter.  I spent two days on and off trail in wilderness (using the AT to connect a couple of meandering routes) and never saw a bear or any sign.  I stayed in my usual type of spot the first night - non established LNT, but the second night stayed in an infrequently used spot (old fire ring but no recent use).  Toted along my bear canister to be safe.  I was going to suggest staying away from routine sites on your next trips until you get over it, but it sounds like you weren't in a typical camping site.  How far were you from the USFS campsite/bear restaurant?  I wonder if he was just on his way to/from there and you were just unlucky enough to be in the way?

I agree with several folks, if my kids were with me I am sure it would affect me much more if I had an encounter like that.

PS  Childhood story - My uncle once took me and a cousin to the Boundary Waters - outfitter warned us about some bear issues.  Uncle said "Don't worry, I'll sleep in the middle to protect both of you."  I am not sure I slept much that night...

5:22 p.m. on August 5, 2018 (EDT)
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We were too close to the FS campsite Phil, definitely under a mile. Totally stupid of me to camp there in hindsight. This is a big campsite with lots of people during the Summer. It has bears every year, but I figured on the bear going there rather than bothering us. He came up our ridge on his way to the campground for sure because he hit them next. We were careful, as I always am, about smells. I'm pretty sure he was following the smell of people, not food, to find us. He never noticed the food bag and seemed intent on driving us out of our camp by walking right at us from various directions.

Not sure if I'll be able to sleep up there on that ridge come Winter, but the rest of the year I think I'll make a point of camping a few miles farther on when I'm in that area. Definitely going to be interesting the first night of my next solo trip no matter where I camp. Was watching a paint commercial the other day and the Behr logo gave me a start ;) Never noticed how accurate that shape was before heh.

1:14 a.m. on August 8, 2018 (EDT)
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I have never seen anything more than the backside of a bear in wild places...but I did have a deer lick my bottom while I was sleeping in my hammock once. I turned over in my hammock to see what was going on and found myself staring into the round black eyes of the deviant beast...it was more creepy than frightening...but I don't think I'll ever get over it!

10:44 p.m. on August 8, 2018 (EDT)
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Back in the 1960s and 1970s there were lots of bears around in NPs.  I was learning their ways then and had lots of close encounters.  I cooked dinner once in the dark in Oregon and turned on the flashlight to check the soup.  A black bear was on his hind legs on the other side of the picnic table at a campground. That was scary.  I had a bear in Alberta sniff my head throught the mosquito netting of a small tent.  I went back to sleep and woke up 25 minutes later to a sow and two cubs sniffing my head.  Then I got up. 

Around 1980 I started working in Alaska and seeing them all the time.  The fear goes away with practice. I learned to read them much better and did not feel so threatened by their presence.

11:09 a.m. on August 10, 2018 (EDT)
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I have run into plenty of coastal brown bears in AK.  There were mostly interested in fishing, and gave me little trouble if I gave them their space and their territory. 

Many people think black bears will take off in the presence of humans.  A lot of them will, but some especiallyl the habituated bears are very tough to get rid of.  They hang around and they come back.  Some will try to intimidate humans.  One in Alaska that probably had never seen a human before kept hanging around all day.  He would leave and come back always from behind us.  I think he thought of us as lunch.  You do not know which order they come in.  Always respect black bears. 

I have never been around white bears and do not want to ne.  Even people that are comfortable around Barren Grounds grizzlies, get tense around polar bears. 

8:45 p.m. on August 10, 2018 (EDT)
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BearAK3.jpg
A bear I encountered in Alaska. He was busy with his lady-friend., and had no interest in the canisters. We kept our distance from the lovers.


BearAK2.jpg
Another bear we encountered in Alaska. She was a sweet young thing more interested filling up on food for the upcoming winter season. Her sister is just a little bit out of this photo.

Keeping a clean camp, using bear canisters, and such are the keys to minimizing encounters.

I have never lost food or had a damaged campsite to bears. OTOH, my brother in law wanted to take his 2 sons on the JMT. In both attempts, he managed to lose all the food. He used the old food hanging approach. In both cases, he used the haul cable set up provided by the park service. And in both attempts, the bears got the food at locations 2 days hike from the trailheads.

I have had several experiences in official campgrounds with people in the neighboring specified campsite who left their fish catch on the camp table while they walked over to the stream, then got bent out of shape when "baby" bears marched right in, grabbed the fish, and ran off.

Yes, the rangers did warn them.

August 15, 2018
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