For more than 3000 miles we had not seen a grizzly bear except from above, from the observation point in Hyder. That seemed to not count. It was a wild animal, but the setting was so tame.
We passed black bears just about every day now. I stopped counting at 13. We didn’t even slow to take a photo of them anymore.
In just about everywhere we stopped were notices on billboards with the same information about bears.
Bears are dangerous wild animals and must be treated with respect. Do not provoke them and keep a good distance between you and them. Never run from a bear: A bear can run 50 yards in 3 seconds, or up to 40 mph, faster than a race horse for short distances, and faster than any human, uphill or downhill. Running away will only encourage the bear to chase you. If attacked by a black bear fight back as well as you can. They are aggressive and will kill and eat a human. If attacked by a grizzly bear roll up and hold still. It probably does not want to eat you. If it bats you around a few times, then fight back—it probably is trying to kill you. (Emphasis mine)
I think that trying to fight a 600 pound bear after it bats you around a few times is pretty optimistic. Hell, fighting a 200 pound black bear is far more than even a kung fu fighter could manage! And if “Danil Bune kilt a bar” it sure wasn’t in hand-to-paw melee but with a well place rifle ball.
Gus and I often discussed buying a whopping can of bear repellent, one that’ll let loose a big blast of good old 50,000 Scoville capsicum pepper into its face. Of course, there is the problem that without utmost care the sprayer is likely to blast himself as well and then I guess it is a contest to see whether he recovers faster than a bear. I for one would hate to spice myself up to be a hot spicy bear meal. So we never got one. Who would be so stupid to get that close to a bear anyway?
We had left Dawson and were driving north on the finest dirt road I’ve ever been on. It was gorgeous and diverting but didn’t relieve me of my passenger duty of being official animal-lookout. Then I saw it.
“Look up there! Grizzly by the road!”
Gus stopped the car and pulled out his camera. Click.
“Aw, it’s turning away. We sure have a bunch of animal asses this trip.”
“Oh oh, it’s turning around. Those will be some great pictures!”
“Oh shit, “let’s get going Gus. It’s coming our way.”
“I mean it Gus, let’s go.”
“Jesus Gus, let’s get going. That’s pretty close”
“Wait wait, he says, “These are great pictures.
“Screw the pictures Gus, let’s go. Come ON Gus, It’s coming on my side. Jesus Gus, it’s really close.”
Now I am trying frantically to get my seat belt of and get into the back seat but of course I am also fighting to get away from it and the belt won’t unlock and I’m screaming, “GOD DAMN IT GUS LET’S GO NOW! NO FOOLING AROUND!!”
“IT’S LOOKING AT ME GUS GET GOING THIS IS STUPID” and me wishing that I had some bear spray or something because look at that photo, it is looking right at us AND IT’S SMILING!!! It’s thinking do I eat the big guy or the chubby guy first?”
And it walks right past my window and I’m screaming “NOT FUNNY! NOT FUNNY!” and Gus hits the gas and we pull away. I do not exaggerate: its back was higher like a foot or foot and a half higher than the bottom of my window.
“What the hell are you doing Gus? That’s putting my life in danger!”
“We’re in the car.”
“That thing could have torn the side off our car by accident!”
“Oh, I had my foot on the gas. I would’ve pulled away>”
“You’re not faster than a grizzly bear!”
“I can read bear body language and he wasn’t being aggressive.”
“Experts can’t read bear body language”
Silence, for the whole rest of the ride up to Eagle Lodge where we stayed that night.
Now, the good news is that I didn’t shit myself or get eaten and have a good story to tell, but one thing I want to share is
DON’T EVER DO THAT TO A FRIEND! NEVER!!
We started talking to each other later that day, but only after I said
DON’T EVER DO THAT TO A FRIEND! NEVER!!
So you, dear reader, remember this when you go driving up through the Yukon.