Three hungry bears gave these campers a morning wake-up call to remember!
A mama bear and her hungry cubs gave these campers one memorable wake-up call!
This is a story of three bears. It is not a fairy tale; it is true, as true as the words on this page. It was a long time ago, but I still recall it clearly. It was late spring in northern Alberta and the rivers, lakes and sloughs were free of winter’s ice. My parents were fur trappers, as were most people in the area, and it was nearing the end of the year’s trapping season.
We were camped in the lovely sand hills, about four miles from our line cabin on the river, on the banks of a large slough where muskrats were plentiful. Here, we would finish up our trapping, as the fur season would close in a matter of days. Our camp was as small as necessity could make it: light blankets, two flour sacks of utensils and food, and lastly a small tent for the three of us to sleep in.
The weather was sunny and warm, with long days and only a few hours of darkness. Very early one morning, we were awakened by the only alarm system we had: my best friend and constant companion, Chippy, a black- and- white spaniel. She had been asleep at my feet when suddenly her head popped up with a low “woof.” My mom quickly said, “George, it must be a bear! Chippy knows bears!” Dad hastily pulled on his trousers and, taking his rifle, crawled to the tent opening and stuck his head out to have a look around. Chippy didn’t create a fuss, but she was growling deep in her throat, hackles up, and on guard. Brave little thing she was! Dad spoke softly, saying, “Tie up Chippy; don’t let her out.”
He then motioned me to come forward and look out. Just at the edge of the camp clearing, in and out among some low shrubs, paced a big mama bear with two small black furballs bouncing along behind her. She could see us watching her and hear the dog growling. It was obvious that she wasn’t looking for trouble, only food for her and her babies. We had a small rack of meat drying to be used later as
food for our dogs, and this was what she had her nose and eye on. Dad spoke softly again: “If she gets a taste of food, she won’t leave and we may have a real problem.” The bear would pause now and then with her nose testing the air, alert for any sign of danger.
We must have made a movement or noise, because she suddenly stopped and let out a deep “whuff.” The two balls of fur raced for the only two trees in their immediate vicinity, which were two fair- sizes poplars, about 12 or 15 feet apart, and they scooted! The problem was, the trees were young poplars with few sturdy branches. One cub was lucky: He had a good branch to perch his fuzzy little bottom on. With one paw hugging the tree trunk, he was comfortable enough. However, his sibling was not so lucky—he had no sturdy branch to sit on and he had to cling to the tree trunk with all four feet. Like all babies, they kept up a steady cry of “Maa-maa,” “Maa-maa,” just like any scared little tykes.
Meanwhile, mama bear, knowing her babies were reasonably safe, ignored their pitiful cries and concentrated on trying to get to the food. When she headed for the meat rack, Dad said, “It’s time to change her mind.” Raising the rifle, he fired a shot well over her head to warn her off. She ran off a ways, grunting and snuffling, then she tried from another angle. This time, Dad fired several more shots in the air to deter her. With the sounds of bullets zinging far overhead and her babies bawling their little heads off, mama bear decided discretion was definitely the better part of valour. Disappearing behind a bush, she gave a couple of deep-throated “whuffs” and, quick as a wink, the little cubs slid down those trees as if they were greased! Off they ran after their mama.
It was an awesome and delightful scenario, but as my mother later said, “It might have had a different ending if that mama bear had been in a real grouchy mood.” How true! ■