Are there bears in the woods?

Today’s run was another easy 5K though autumn woods. There was virtually no cloud in the sky. At midday, the sun was quite low in the southern sky and its rays slanted brightly through the trees. For someone who spent his childhood nearer to the equator, and in the southern hemisphere, finding the sun low in the southern sky still seems a bit odd. It is now less than six weeks to the solstice; that great turning point in the year when the days stop shrinking and begin to elongate, pointing towards the eventual return of the wonderful long summer evenings that are one of the greatest treats for an Australian living in England.

After about 3 Km I was startled by a snapping branch off the path to my left. It summonsed an instant recall of a time a few years ago when I think I was stalked by a clumsy bear in the Canadian wilderness. On that occasion, a few rustling and snapping sounds emerging from the forest to the left over a space of a minute or so indicated that some sizeable creature was moving approximately parallel to my path. I headed very purposefully back towards camp trying to look as formidable as is possible for a 63Kg guy standing barely 170 cm tall, with my heart in my mouth. I think my heart still bears metaphorical teeth marks, so today it skipped a beat even though at midday the only wild thing likely in this patch of woodland would be a squirrel. The crackles continued and it was clear that the source was roughly bear-sized but even clumsier than its Canadian counterpart. So today I was sharing the solitude of the woods with another human being. It brought home to me how lucky I am to have a patch of nearby woodland frequented by few apart from occasional dog-walkers.

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3 Responses to “Are there bears in the woods?”

  1. ajh Says:

    Are you sure it wasn’t an oversized badger or something? I haven’t seen one of them since I left England!

  2. Ewen Says:

    That’s the thing I worried about when running in Canada and the Pacific North-West. I remember once in Oregon one runner at the head of our group saw a cougar. At least they’re wary of groups. Wish I’d seen it, although I was mighty nervous at the time.

  3. canute1 Says:

    It would be great if it had been a badger; I have seen badgers in the evening in Wollaton Park, which is on the opposite side of the river Trent from where we live. In our local woods I sometime meet a fox in the evening but in the middle of the day, squirrels and birds are the only wild creatures I encounter.

    I wondered about a cougar at the time of my Canadian experience, but think a bear was far more likely – and potentially more dangerous, as cougars only rarely attack adults. While I lived in Canada there were occasional fatal cougar attacks as well as bear attacks, but as with shark attacks in Australia, the chance of being a victim is actually very small. Like you, I would have loved to have seen a cougar.

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