It’s raining bears.
When it rains, it pours, and it’s raining
cats and dogs, men, apex predators.
I’ve spent more than a month up here, in prime grizzly habitat, at peak season, missing them by minutes. So it was under the full weight of this clear and undeniable curse that I parked yesterday afternoon beside a road next to a mountain the bears were locally rumored to frequent. I wasn’t hopeless, exactly, but it would be fair to say my optimism was dialed down roughly as far as the knob would twist.
Almost as soon as the truck was in park, a big bear popped out of the trees on a ridgeline, moving like he had places to be. Over the next half hour, three more bears appeared out of the woods and headed off on errands of their own. And then someone appeared and told us another bear was hanging out right by the road, half a mile back towards town. And that was an opportunity too good to pass up.
I give a range because there were two probable repeats. But I’m not really qualified to identify bears on a personal one-on-one basis. All bears are Bob to me, for now. Maybe Beau. I haven’t even gotten the point of applying general names.
The first four were just brown blobs on the mountain . . . but the next two were right up as close as you’d want. Closer than a lot of people would. One was digging up something in a field right by the road, and kept right at it until a much larger bear popped right out of the brush, scaring her (and possibly me). He ran her off — I think he was one of the blobs I’d spotted earlier, who was clearly on the trail of something and on a mission — and I don’t blame her for running, he was huge. She circled back a few minutes later and got right back to digging.
I got some good, but not great, photos, so I spent some time that night thinking of ways to get some better shots in the same location/conditions.
I’ve heard bears will continue to come to a food source this time of year until it’s completely exploited, so I waited the next day in the same spot, more prepared. Of course, no bears, except one in the distance. Plenty of other wildlife, though, and the bear drought has become a bear flood.
I owe a lot of thanks to various great folks who’ve offered tips on where the bears hang out, and just grizzly behavior in general. Legwork, learning, and a little luck. It was a bit crazy to see so many in one place, from my rig after driving all over and hiking about 150 miles in grizzly country looking for them.
It’s a great reminder of this truth: Failure is only failure when you give up.
It’s also been raining rain. Brrr.