Black bear – rules the camping ground

Summer of ’81 my mother was visiting from Norway. At the same time two teenage cousins were visiting from Germany. We took a nice road trip from Burns Lake to Jasper, Columbia Icefield, and this  one night camping in a large government camping ground in the Rockies, on the way to Banff, lower mainland, Seattle, Portland, Oregon Coast, Vancouver Island, and ending up in Vancouver.

Gila, Hans and me in one small tent, the teenagers in one, and mother had a regular single bed in the back of my brand new Ford 3/4 ton pickup with a large canopy, made comfortable like a small Motel Room. It was about four in the morning, just getting some light.

I awoke from a noise outside the tent, opened the zipper, and there was a large fat black bear, just a few feet away. You do not feel very brave; with a wife, small kid, and just a thin tent cloth between us and the hungry bear. In the other tent, two teenagers that I was also responsable for, one that would certainly scream if she woke up. That could be it. Do not scream. Play dead.

The bear knew exactly what he was doing. He climbed on to the large heavy timber picnic table, where we had stored a metal cooler full of all our foods. I thought that was a safe place. The bear had seen these before. With no hesitation, he rolled the cooler on to its side, opened the metal hasp with one claw, and bingo, there was all the food rolling on the table.

He tasted the various products, like shopping in the store. Gila and me had our heads in the zipper opening of the tent. The teenagers were sleeping, but I managed to wake my mother so that she could see a real bear, close up, just a few feet away, scary but very interesting. A coil of sausages went down like candy, then he opened a bag of salt, and took a large licking; swallowing some, his face made a grimace I never seen before or later, the salt was just too much.

He grabbed a bread, put it in his jaws and devoured it, and happily walking towards the next campers. On his way he tripped on the tent cords of the teenagers, almost ripping the tent down. I held my breath, thinking disaster, but they newer awoke, and he carried on. I did not wake the neighbour campers, the bear went through the same routine there, and went on to the next.

I showed off my courage by getting the fire in the barbecue pit going, creating lots of fire and smoke. Grabbing a small camping axe, and a beer, sitting on the top og the picnic table like a king, protecting the whole family, listening to the occasional scream as the bear ate himself through the grounds.

I admit I was shaken, but a beer and a snaps in the morning cures the shakes.

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