By: Marie Vaine
As I rounded a raspberry-patch-covered corner, I slammed on my brakes as I saw the berry-eating black bear sitting ten feet in front of me in the middle of the trail. It took all 5’2’’ of me to speak sternly to the bear that was at least twice my size as my hands and knees shook. I slowly unclipped my foot from my pedal and that slightest click startled the bear, as it stood up on its hind legs, towering over me.
I talked to it as I slowly placed my bike on the ground between us and backed away slowly. It grunted and pawed the ground. When I was twenty feet away it took a few quick steps toward me, the first bluff charge. My palms sweat as I continued to walk backward. “One foot at a time,” I said to myself, “Just one foot at a time.”
Twenty-five, thirty feet of distance between the bear and I. Apparently not far enough because it ran at me again, this time taking six steps before stopping and watching my reaction. My knees buckled and I looked around for something – a stick, a rock – anything to save me, but found nothing useful and I just kept walking backward. The bear took one more step toward me and then turned and ran away. “One foot at a time,” I whispered, as I walked backward for another quarter mile.
Bear sightings are not uncommon on Kingdom Trails, though most encounters end quickly as the bear runs away. It is important to know what to do in the case that you do come across a berry-eating bear on KT. Here’s a few tips about biking in black bear country:
First, make noise when you are riding, either by talking or singing (my personal favorite) loudly as you round blind corners. Bear like to avoid people so if they hear you coming, they will most likely get out of your way. Riding in groups is another great way to avoid bears as they are usually much more intimidated by numbers.
If you do come across a bear, stay calm and give it space. A bear can run much faster than you so while running or biking away might be your natural reaction, resist. Stay calm, talk to it in a clear voice, and begin backing away slowly. It might stand up on its hind legs to smell you better, but continue to back away. Bluff charges, such as the two that I experienced, are just a bear intimidation factor so don’t run or try to play dead. Just stand your ground or continue to back away. Eventually it will run away.
We not only share the trails with other bikers, we share it with all the wildlife around. Keep your eyes out for bear, deer, moose, squirrels, and everything else, big and small, that live with us in the Kingdom. Remember, a perfect berm for you might be a perfect spot for lunch for someone else!