by: Mike Lushington
It was mid-morning. As had so often been the case in this cranky,
backward summer that we have had thus far, it had rained during the night.
I knew that the wood paths would once again be sodden and I guess that I
had gotten a bit tired of slogging through cedar swamps and spruce
thickets that, in late June, still had the characteristics of early
spring. For that reason, I decided on this particularly nice morning to
walk the railway spur that crosses our property from west to east on its
way from the Junction into town.
Sasha and I had crossed the MacNeish Road and had just passed by the
clear-cut to the west. She had been frisking since we set out, easily
covering three or four times the ground that I had as she explored
everything that crossed her path. Just a few minutes past, she had greeted
the old porcupine that we had both come to expect by the deadfall spruce
by the old beaver pond. She had sniffed out the moose tracks that we had
been seeing for the past few days, and finding nothing new about them, had
continued on her way. A partridge exploding from the undergrowth and a
squirrel chickering at her from a tall spruce both prompted short chases,
more for form sake, I was beginning to realize, than for any hope that she
might actually catch them.
We had been out for nearly an hour, though, and the sun was beginning
to warm things up. consequently she had settled down to a rather more
sedate pace as I strolled along the track, watching for birds and taking
note of the early summer wild flowers that were beginning to bloom in the
ditches and at the edge of the woods.
Suddenly, Sasha came to a complete halt, ears thrust forward, head
high, peering intently into a thicket just off the tracks. I am beginning
to know this puppy's body language, and I realized instantly that she had
detected something that was both rather unusual and impressive. This was
no porcupine, or racoon; no, this warranted respect. "Moose", I thought,
instantly - and discarded the idea almost as quickly. We had had several
encounters with these big critters, and I thought that I knew how she
would have been acting had this been another. Just then, I heard a crash
in the thicket and a very distinctive "Woof"!
Sasha made a huge bound in the direction of the sound, At the same
instant, I caught sight of a black bundle of fur scrambling up a tall
aspen. Sasha disappeared into the screen of trees. For a second,
everything was still. Then I heard a second crash in the undergrowth and
what sounded very distinctly like a snarl. Sasha came hurtling out of the
thicket, across the ditch and up onto the track bed with me, followed
closely by a very irate mother black bear. As soon as I saw the bear, I
threw my arms into the air and shouted at her. She slammed to a halt just
on the other side of the ditch and sat back on her haunches to consider
this latest development. Sasha, in the meantime, had decided that the
safest place for her was anywhere, so long as she was further away from
the bear than I was.
I looked at the bear, the bear looked at me. Then I turned, very slowly
toward Sasha, and suggested, quietly that it was time for us to continue
our walk. Silently, I also "thanked" her for being so generous in suddenly
wanting to share her newly found plaything.
We saw no more bears that day, or since. However, I must confess that
we returned home by another route that morning, and I haven't been back
since to see how mother and cub are doing.