Crowding in on an animal--like the grizzly--which represents wilderness is a paradoxical undertaking which carries a special onus--a responsibility for which there are no living role models. The relationships of ancient hunting peoples with animals were contractual, based on mutual obligations, or principles of reciprocity. Animals were seen as earthly relatives living in spiritual configurations, not as soul-less creatures who activated no moral relationship.

Any ethic designed to keep the wilderness wild is tied to having animals like grizzlies nudge you in a certain direction, who demand behavior that throws you back upon those ancient hunting agreements. Without them, we are likely to take the path of least resistance and conduct ourselves in according with precepts of human asendancy.

There's a lot of bullshit out there about what to do in bear country and how to act if you encounter a grizzly. One agency handout will tell you not to fornicate or menstruate in the woods, and not to run away but to climb trees or make noise if you are charged. The next leaflet may say exactly the opposite. Much of this conflicting advice results from responsible agencies worrying about covering their asses legally and assuming their clientele are hicks. But some of the confusion is the honest product of the individuality of all bears and the uniqueness of the situation.

1. Don't hike like a yuppie.
Move down the trail or bushwhack like an animal. Stop and listen every five minutes or so; more often in brushy country. You are not the dominant species out there. Your rusty senses are better than you think, especially your senses of smell and hearing.

2. See the grizzly before the grizzly sees you.
I can't overemphasize this point and it is easier to achieve than it sounds. I prefer to walk into the wind. This is contrary to the advice you read in government brochures. My intent is to see bears, not avoid them; because of this, I move into the wind slowly, stopping to listen every other minute or so, depending on the acoustics of the habitat. Bears make a lot of noise most of the time, when they're not wary of intrusion. At times it is wise to let a grizzly know you're around. For instance, grizzlies bed in predictable places--like clumps of krummholz in alpine areas or willow bottoms in the Arctic--places through which you may have to walk. At these times, I circle to the windward and let my scent blow into the bedded animal. But in general, don't disturb bears or other animals with your human scent any more than you must. Each disturbance takes vital energy away from the grizzly, and in the exceptionally lean years human harassment of wildlife can make the difference between survival and starvation. Padding the margin of human safety out there is not important. Grizzlies and wildernesses are risky propositions/as they should be.

3. Travel quietly.
There are few times when it is necessary to make noise, and in those rare situations the human voice--at conversational tones--suffices. Bear bells are obscene. They disrupt the life of virtually every animal in grizzly country. If you feel you need airhorns or bear bells in the wilderness, please stay home. I talk when bears are active on brushy trails around blind corners. Sometimes I sing real quiet like. but never country western. Whatever you do in griz country, don't sing country western.

4. Get out of the way.
When you see what bears are doing, you can avoid them. If you must pass them--say, on a ridgetop--you will have time to retreat to a safe cliff-face (female grizzlies with young do the same to avoid males) or climb a tree. This is about the only time I recommend climbing a tree.

5. Don't try to run or climb a tree when a griz spots you.
The biggest single cause of griz maulings is people running and trying to climb trees after drawing the attention of bears. Government handouts are bad on this point. It's too late to climb a tree if the bear is aware of you. If you doubt me, do a dry run tree climb and time yourself. A griz in Denali was clocked at 41 mph. That's fast. They run well up or down hills. Once you're face to face with a grizzly bear, only calm and dignified action combined with luck will save you.

6. Pay attention to sows with young.
They are a special case. Most grizzly maulings are by mothers with cubs. They account for a minimum 75 percent of all injuries, although probably 95 percent of these injuries could have been avoided by the victims if they had acted wisely. It doesn't seem to matter whether the young bears are cubs, yearlings or even two-year-olds. One might suspect moms with cubs of the year to be more protective, but that is not at all clear. All mother grizzlies appear equally dangerous. 

7. Never camp in a place where bears feed, travel or bed. 
I always set up in a tent regardless of weather. I sleep in the middle of that tent. Of course, I'm one paranoid sucker. Nonetheless, night is the only time I expect grizzlies to slip into that fearsome predatory personality you read about in magazines and see in horror films. It's rare as hell, but it has happened. It is the stuff of nightmares.

The one way to avoid a dangerous situation is to never approach a grizzly family (see step 2). If you do end up within mother bear's critical distance (the area in which she will violently defend her cubs--sometimes as much as 100 yards, though 100 feet is more common), don't run. Running will precipitate a charge or chase, and if you keep running ... an attack. Don't look directly at a grizzly; that represents a challenge and the bear may choose to resolve it with a fight, which you will lose. The salient point is that getting too close to a griz is a mistake--your mistake--and once it happens the options are limited and will ultimately be painful if you continue your blunders. Above all, don't complain. You will minimize your injuries by remaining unmacho and taking your licks quietly. Think of the scars to show off and the stories you can tell.

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