By Roger Nusbaum, AdvisorShares ETF Strategist
We live in northern Arizona in tall pines at about 6600 feet of elevation. It's a semi-rural area with a lot of hiking trails nearby. We hike almost every Sunday morning with a couple of our dogs on trails that the dogs know well enough that we can let them off leash; (we start our hike very early when no one else is there and we leash them on the way back).
It being the woods, we see some wildlife now and then but after 12 years we had still never seen a bear and mind you 12 years could easily be 500 hikes. We've always known that there are occasionally bears in the area and we finally saw one on July 4th 2014. I blogged about it at the time but basically our dogs surrounded it and were barking like crazy. The bear turned toward Roscoe and Roscoe took off from the bear up to where I was standing (and desperately trying to get the dogs to come to me). The bear then ran down the mountain in what looked like slow motion, but Tater in a full sprint couldn't catch up to the bear so she turned around and came back to Roscoe and me.
A female grizzly at Yellowstone National Park in 2011.
Two weeks ago we saw the bear again on a different trail. We were almost to our turnaround point and Roscoe took off running; this could have been to chase a squirrel but I looked up and saw the bear. Roscoe ran down a little hill and started to turn the corner toward the bear all the while my yelling his name over and over. Roscoe stopped and came back to me -- no way to know if he came back because I was calling him or because he realized he'd be in over his head against a bear. As soon as I started trying to call Roscoe back, I started to reach for my phone to take a picture, never taking my eyes off the bear and then the bear took off. I doubt the entire encounter was even ten seconds.
The bears here are black bears; we're not supposed to have grizzlies. Roscoe taking off in a sprint is an indicator of some sort of animal ahead. We have done some research on black bears and know that healthy black bears don't want to deal with people and we know they don't like a lot of noise like from yelling. My wife and I each carry bear spray although I would hate to have to rely on that in the face of the bear coming toward me and we have discussed whether or not to step up our protection by bringing a handgun.
So to summarize: we know bears come along every now and then; we have a reliable but not infallible indicator; we have researched what to do when encountering a bear and have a strategy for handling a bear encounter. This might have applications in other aspects of life as well.
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