OFF THE WIRE
The Perils of Bears and Motorcycles.
By Boots Reynolds
Photo by Kenth Hagström From the Mouth of the River
Bears—they have been in the news a lot lately, them and motorcycle jockeys. Seems the only time they are mentioned is when someone gets killed by one. I liked it back in the day when Glacier Park Bears could get away with eating a tourist now and again. I mean, after all, they were from out of state, it wasn’t like they were someone we knew.
Do you remember that one old sow that laid by trail #406 waiting for an overweight tourist to huff and puff by? She would instruct her cubs not to bother with the old, skinny hikers as they were stringy and tough and didn’t have any meet on their bones. It wasn’t until a chunky Italian girl from Chicago, a Senator’s daughter, was found half devoured and her remains were covered up and left for rodents that something was done to distract bears from eating tourists.
A new law was established that said bears that killed people must be destroyed. The Ranger that shot the bear that attacked the Italian girl positively identified it as the guilty one by the smell of garlic on its breath.
Guides in Alaska and even those of us who guide in the Bob Marshall Wilderness carry a weapon that would stop a charging elephant in its tracks when backing up a bear hunter. Not to protect his ignorant ass, but to stop the bear from getting both of us.
The modern-day hunter has no idea what a gut shot grizzly can do to a human. The best I can explain it would be like a mad Pit Bull dog with a cottontail rabbit in its mouth, shaking body parts everywhere faster than you can say “Oh Shi…T.”
The same words you would hear just before a motorcyclist hits the back end of a parked truck or a rock wall at eighty miles an hour. I mean, really, you don’t expect a motorcyclist to ride at a speed comparable to that of a regular automobile, do you?! Why own a motorcycle if you can’t go balls- to-the-wall with no helmet on? “I got the bitch on the back and my dogs at home,” the sign read on the back of his bike.
The undertaker says the hardest part of getting a cyclist ready for a funeral is cleaning the bugs off his teeth. The body itself is broken in so many pieces they just pour it into the box.
I’m not condoning the death of either hunters or motorcyclists, but you gotta admit, it does strengthen the gene pool. After all, you wouldn’t want your daughter to marry a guy who goes bear hunting with a switch or jumps out of an airplane with just an umbrella.
A sidearm is another misnomer bear hunters use as a back-up gun for close quarters. When you stick a forty-some caliber Roy Rogers special in the face of a bear and pull the trigger, your chance of survival is not all that great and if you come out from under the anesthesia and find you are missing one arm at the elbow, consider yourself lucky. Stupid, but lucky.
I know a man of such experience; after firing his pistol in the face of a grizzly the bear sat down, reached up, and slapped his arm off at the elbow. Both the bear and the hunter passed out at the scene; the bear was disposed of by a hunting companion who was nearby. The doctors were unable to reattach the hunter’s mangled arm in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at that time. They were, however, able to pry the gun from his cold dead hand to have as a reminder of his incident with a bear and a hand gun. He now hunts elk with a forty-five, seventy lever action Winchester, something he can load single handed while balancing it on the stub of his lost arm.
A two for one story happened in, I think, Montana or Wyoming, when a motorcycle hit a grizzly crossing the highway. (It may have even been in Alaska.) The jockey was thrown clear of the wreck and survived; can’t say the same for the bear or the motorcycle. It was not a pretty sight.
We here in the great Northwest live amongst the bears and often think nothing of it; they wander in and out of our towns as well as through our yards. Fish and Game tries to neutralize any of these incidents by moving the bears back into the mountains from which they came.
A bear’s only interest in life is to eat and they will eat anything you or I would eat or anything other animals would eat. That includes dog or cat food left out or bird seed. Even your garbage will be taken out behind your house, the sacks opened up and picked through, as bears are not as finicky as you are about what you throw out. Bears have a nose on them like your mother-in-law, who can detect the slightest hint of another woman on you whom you just passed in the hall.
Also, their memory is just as unique as their sense of smell. Not only can they remember where you hid all the goodies, they know where and when you put it there. They remember what time of year the service berries, huckleberries, cherries, apples and any other fruit ripens, not to mention when and where you put out bird seed. They can detect the smell of newborn animals as well as carrion and will eat either one, and will dig up forty acres of dirt to get to one ground squirrel. Apparently, there’s a lot of nutrition in ground squirrels even though I’ve never tried one. I think I’ll take their word for it.
North American Indians put a lot of stock in the relationship between the bear and their people. And it’s scary how much a two-year-old bear, field dressed and hanging in a tree, looks like the body of a human. Except for the female bear who has multiple breasts; six I think, in cases for when she has two or more cubs. More breast produces more milk. Bear milk is rich in fat content, causing the cubs to grow fast and strong. Indian folklore says that a baby raised by a mother bear will grow bigger and stronger than anyone in the tribe. The trick is, as I see it, to get the baby in the bear’s den without getting caught.
Other known facts about bears that are widely known amongst women of the West is when you render out the fat from a bear, it makes the best pie crust ever made—light and flaky but it will support a slice of pie eaten by hand without falling apart, unlike anything I’ve ever tried to make.
When tracking bears in the woods it’s easy to tell if it’s a black Bear or a Grizzly by the scat, a word used in outdoor magazines meaning bear crap. The black bear scat will be dark in color with the seeds of whatever fruit is in season at the time. The grizzly bear scat will be likewise in color and seeds, with small pieces of tennis shoes, buttons and flannel, sometimes pieces of a watch along with some crunched up silver bells and a slight smell of pepper spray. It’s at this time when you should check the caliber of gun you are toting and maybe turn your four-wheeler around and go back to camp and save your Depends for the camp chili.