Bear Scare
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.


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