Sunday, April 5, 2015


This is a story that I've had to wait a whole year to tell. 
Because the telling of it makes my heart beat faster.
Makes my palms sweat.
Fills my soul with horror. 
I do not want you to live this story...

No sh*t, there I was. 
Walking along the dirt road just down from our warm, springtime home. Just the Dawg and I. A meandering walk to end a happy busy day. A walk to enjoy the freshness of the air and watch the stars begin to come out as the sun sets. A walk of silent joys. And then...
Not a big SNAP, but a little wood twiggy snap, off to my left, slightly uphill from me. 
I turn to see what has made the twig snap, curious.
There, silhouetted against the evening sky, a perfect, huge, outline of a Brown bear's head. 
The Head and shoulders begin to move swiftly and silently down the alder choked hill, toward me.
I've never seen a live Grizzly bear out in the Wild before. I wished I wasn't seeing one now.
I knew I shouldn't run. I knew I couldn't stand. I knew there was Nothing between us but my son's raincoat I was wearing and a coupla branches. She was coming closer, fast. If I'd fainted, I'd have hit her in the nose with my head. 
So, I backed up.
Up the road in the direction I had come, she was keeping pace with me, her bulk appearing out of the alders, easily brushing through them, without a sound. 
Time and space slowed to bare movement. Don't Breathe, raise foot, she keeps pace, put foot down... 
I carefully take my bear spray out of my pocket, hoping not to incite an attack. Slip the guard off, and step back one more time. 
I spray a wall of spray in front of me, like I had just seen in a video from the Colorado Fish and Game. 
She stops. Lowered head and bulk of body directly in front of me and oriented towards me. She raises and lowers her head at me. 
Shit shit shit shit SHIT!

 I think. What the hell am I doing out here on this road, with no one around, at this time of night, and the immense emptiness of nothing between me and this absolutely undoubtedly pinnacle predator, but AIR. Clear. Insubstantial. 
Nothing. But. 
Her claws extend a good six inches past the end of her toes, and their impact on the ground arches her toes upwards. She looks exactly like the pictures. I marvel at her. I realize I haven't breathed yet. I take a deep slow quiet breath. 
 I yell. "Bear!"
Despite the fact that it was actually a squeak, all of the windows on the house nearby are thrown up. A woman's voice silences a barking dog. A hairy man in nothing but boxer shorts and an enormous colt 45, comes bounding out onto his porch. 
The Bear huffs, and turns towards the man in boxers. 
Another huge bear pops out of the woods, and steps up behind her. They are the Same Size. 
I only have 1/4 of a can of bear spray left. The rest is slowly precipitating out of the air in front of me, between me and the bears. 
The man waves his pistol in the air. I look at that second bear, Think of how little spray I have left, Think of how the first bear will Obliterate me right there in the road with nothing around and no where to hide, if I hurt her cub by spraying it with bear spray, and speak quietly to the woman inside the house. 
"It's just me, here in the road. Please don't scare the bears."
"ok." She whispers. 
The bear starts towards the man, and what I realize must be his trash can, out on the porch, 25 feet away. I breathe again.
Look down and realize the Dawg is by my side. I take her collar in my hand, grateful she is ok. She is not scared, but alert and on point. 
She is looking at the Second Bear. 
He has begun to roll towards the house, stiff legged. He disappears behind the bare trunk of a large pine tree ahead and to my right. 
Then he charges me.
Time slows to a point so small it squeezes and hurts. I see the wet spring turf spurting up behind him as all four of his feet and claws dig in as he charges at me. I cannot bring myself to focus on his teeth, but I can see past them, right down to the start of his throat. 
I hold my 1/4 can of bear spray, arm out, pointed straight towards his face. Stand as stock still as I can. I don't want to spray him. I don't want to die. 
I can't pray because I have to be brave. I lean slightly towards him, my focus on his face is so sharp. Just my arm, and a rattly can between us. 
He stops quickly in front of me,Front legs straight and stiff; the moss covered clay from his approach rolling down and hitting my foot. If I lean more now, I can hit him with my hand. 
He stares at me, mouth agape. I stand. Arm out, not moving. Everything is silent. 
He shakes his head back and forth at me, lowering it. I stand, arm out, intent on him. The silence is so deep it's a burden upon us. I wait, suffocating. 
He growls. And turns slowly away. The First Bear has huffed and called him. He walks stiffly toward her, turning to charge back at me every 3 feet or so. I stand with my arm out. Can at the end pointed at him.
The two of them proceed along the outside edge of the house, 20 feet away, the second charging me every few feet until they go around a curve in the road, and are,
I lower the can. I look down. I have the dog's collar in my hand, and have tightened up so much, that her front feet are off of the ground. She is looking up at me. I quickly put her down and let her loose.  "Leave it" I say. She does. 
I blink and breathe and time starts up again. Color seems bright. I want to pet the dog all over.
The man in the boxer shorts and the enormous useless Colt 45, dances across the wet, pitted grass up to me. 
He hasn't seen the second bear, or the charge. He wants to hear what a hero he is for saving me. I wish I could smack him with that gun. Can you hear it. Ca- CHUNK, right upside the head. But that would be wrong. His trash can is on the porch, overflowing onto the boards. 
I call my son, who is home for a break, to come and get me in the old pickup truck. The sound of my voice scares him so badly he gets lost coming the mile to me; tears stain his face when he arrives. 
"It's ok, I tell him. Please don't cry. Did you see the bears?"
I have not told him this whole story. 

At the time, and now, all I can think is,

"What if I had been a 10 year old kid on a bike???"

So I am here begging you. Please use bear proof trash cans. I've spoken with my neighbors who don't have bear proof cans. They don't know this story. They feel they have the right to use what ever can they want.
I don't think they have the right to kill someone else's Kid. 
And that's my point. Not that I was scared. Not that I shouldn't have been out walking in the late evening. Not that you should always carry bear spray, no matter what (I now carry two cans). But that someone unaware, could have been killed because you refuse to keep your trash in the garage, with the door closed, and use bear proof cans. 
Every time a bear gets reward from eating from your can, you are teaching them to forage and defend their food, where your neighbors' kids play. And that is inexcusably selfish.

Dave Battle, from Alaska Fish and Game, called me the next day to tell me that they had had to shoot the bear that charged me. It had charged another family, while raiding their trash cans. They figured that his sibling (not his mom) would be so traumatized at seeing him killed, that she would stay out of the neighborhood for the foreseeable future. 
I am watching for her this Spring. I hope she has found good forage out in the State Park, and won't go back to making her living from trash cans. I am hoping she won't be able to because my neighbors will take care of their trash. I don't want to see her dead. Or someone's Kid.
Dave Battle says never to spray a wall of spray between you and a bear, but to use the spray you have more effectively by spraying the bear right in the eyes and mouth. Will do, Dave!



  1. Wow. Wow. Wow.
    My heart was in my throat as I was reading your post, and I was barely breathing. What a gripping experience! I'm so glad you are okay, but so sorry for the bear who was put down (because of trash cans!). Glad you had your spray, glad the events turned out the way they did, glad you and your dog are fine. Those of us who live in suburbia have no idea about the wilds. Thank you for your story, Lori. Take care!

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth!! I am also very sorry for the bear that had to be put down because of bad trash handling. and taking your trash to the dump, here, is FREE!! I surveyed my neighborhood on trash day and found that 50% of people don't have bear proof trash cans. And those 50% are almost exclusively the ones who have lived here the longest. I am just speechless at the thought! XO! to you :) Hugs to the fam!!

  2. Oh my. So glad you are so brave, strong, and OK. *hugs*

  3. Thank you, Yvonne. Although, honestly, bravery in the moment. Then a whole year before I could write about it ;) XX!!!

  4. What an experience Lori! I can't even imagine what that would be like. I am glad you are sharing your experience so people think how their actions can lead to tragedy for both people and animals. I am so thankful you and your dog were not physically harmed. Boy, I need a drink just reading that!

    1. Thank you, Cynthia! I am truly hoping that people understand that their unwillingness to spend $125 on two bear proof cans, and USE them, could lead to the death of someone's child. It's unforgivable!
      Ps, financial aid for the purchase of bear proof cans is available. contact fish and game and show proof of need.

  5. I was scared to death just reading your story - I can't imagine what being there felt like! You were so brave to quietly stand there and not take off running, which would be the reaction of so many people. Thanks for sharing, I can't wait for the hubs to get home to read this. He and my son are in the woods a lot and while we don't have grizzly bears around, there has been an increase in the black bear population. I'm so glad you are okay and I hope your neighbors come to their senses!

  6. Wow - what a story. I too can't believe that you stood your ground. It's unbelievable to me that people in Alaska where there are BEARS wouldn't have bear proof cans. Scary. Glad you're okay and hope your son doesn't have a heart attack when he hears the whole story!

  7. Holy cow Lori! That was riveting! And very frightening. Can't Alaska pass a State law requiring the use of bear proof garbage cans? I remember once we were in Jasper National park and eating tuna sandwiches of all things. A grizzly came out of the trees and was quite a fair ways away from us but he seemed to catch a whiff of our sandwiches and turned to face us directly. Never has a picnic been so quickly grabbed off a picnic table! We were in the car in a flash. I love bears but they are not to be messed with. I hope your neighbors behave more responsibly before someone gets hurt and I hope no more bears have to be put down.

  8. Damn! Poor bear all because of someone's stupidity and selfishness. I think I'll take sea turtle patrols over bear close encounters any day!