So this morning I went shopping super-early (to avoid crowds 'n' whatnot) and I was on my way home, which is mostly on dinky little rural roads out in the middle of nowhere. I had just turned onto yet another dinky little rural road and started climbing the hill that marks the beginning of the thousand-foot "mountain" I must climb to reach where my house actually is (they don't call them "The Hilltowns" fer nothin!).
Anyways, just as I start up the hill this jogger is coming down the hill, all healthy and trim, and, like a good pedestrian, facing oncoming traffic (so she can fling herself into a ditch if someone decides to try to take her out). And, like a good driver, I swing way wide, as far onto the other side of the road as I can, to give her plenty of space so she'll feel safe. (Again, these are RURAL roads; she probably encounters maybe THREE WHOLE CARS during her jog, depending on how far she actually runs, and by now this is freakin' RUSH HOUR, so make of that what you will.) So this is the scenario I have set: jogger coming down the hill, me going up the hill, swinging far to the left, we are just about abreast so I can no longer see her.... and....
This BEAR, maybe forty feet behind her, comes humping out of the woods and dashes across the road right in front of my truck. Which, like most of what I have already described, is par for the course around here. But, in what is also par for the course around here, the jogger most likely had NO IDEA the bear was ever there. Said bruin no doubt heard her coming a long way off--stomping on pavement will do that--and he waited in the bushes for her to pass instead of showing himself. And most likely only went THEN because my car suddenly swerved right toward him and (I assume) he panicked.
Anyway, my point being, when you live out in the sticks, people sometimes ask me: "Aren't you afraid of the bears?" Mojo Secret: if I don't want someone around I will occasionally play up the Grave Danger of Bears to keep them from coming to visit. But the simple truth is, for the most part, wild animals are WILD. They are NOT my furry Forest Friends. Most healthy wild animals do not want ANYTHING to do with people. So yeah, it is wise to respect a bear's size and strength and their potential for violence and their ability to play kickball with your head if they wanted to (according to some search and rescue people I've met, a corpse in the woods rather quickly becomes headless, because bears enjoy batting the skull around), but statistically you are reasonably safe. Black bear, in particular, nearly ALWAYS run like cowards. I've been here close to twenty years, and I've only had ONE BEAR who did not run at first, and I made sure HE REGRETTED THAT CHOICE. So you tend to be safe unless you do something foolish like RUN, which may cause just about any predator, including your pet dog, to give gleeful chase.
Luckily for our healthy, oblivious jogger, this bear (like most) only wanted to get the hell away from her/us. And, again, she probably never even realized he was there. Bears can be surprisingly silent for such a large critter, even when they move fast. Okay, so I had all my windows rolled up and I was blasting Ella at the time, but even if I wasn't I'm guessing he wasn't making much noise. When I am hiking out in the woods around the house I just ASSUME I am being watched, by all manner of critters. Once in a while I am lucky enough to actually SEE one that is watching me (usually not, for the dog is with me, and she scares away pretty much everything within a half mile radius with her doofus running around), our eyes lock in that brief flash of realization, and then the bear or moose or deer or whathaveyou turns and runs like hell. Because, yet again, while they may be mildly curious, in the long run healthy wild animals do not want ANYTHING to do with people. Unhealthy--sick or starving--is another story, as is those who people FEED for reasons that UTTERLY ESCAPE ME... But that is a rant for another time. (Short rant: DON'T FEED WILD ANIMALS. End rant.)
I wished to illustrate this tiny entry with one of the eighty thousand bear pictures I have taken over the years, but going through them I realize that most of them, like the one above, are of a bear's BUTT, because once you see them they only want to hurry away from you, and they tend to NOT sit around and pose majestically so you'll win all sorts of awards for your photography. So going through my bear photos is basically saying "Bear butt. Bear butt. Bear butt" to yourself as you flip through them.
Which, trust me, you don't want to do in public. Just sayin'.