The first thing Yellowstone Park does before releasing backpackers into the American Serengeti, is sit them down to watch a movie about bears in the backcountry. Friendly backpackers clap their hands and call out greetings to the bear, saying hello as they walk around the woods clapping and smiling. This is most likely because singing, “Better Run Through the Jungle” would be violating some copyright laws, and we were assured that all of this noise would scare the bears away.
With this in mind, we began Northwest Yellowstone trail of Black Butte (Black Beauty). We did our best to sing, talk loudly, and making the coolest beats ever on our car camping stove and water bottles. But we only seemed to attract the bears, as we walked around a corner and found one looking up expectantly as though he were enjoying the music.
In a flash my long time friend Anthony had the bear mace in his hands, while Kyle and I walked backwards trying to pull our cameras out and saying, “Takeiteasy”. Facing off with a bear is both terrifying and enthralling at the same time.
With all of the beautiful music gone, our bear soon lost interest in us and returned to eating whatever it was he had found.
We never had to use the bear mace, and this had a lot to do with our reaction. The best way to avoid scaring a bear is by keeping calm and giving it the space it deserves. Since they don’t acknowledge us as food, we are a kind of mysterious nonsensical creature that doesn’t pose a threat, but also isn’t food. We, as a species, are in the grey area.
Amidst the panicked feeling that we should probably leave this bear to his woods and return ourselves to the safety of a bar with a good story, we pulled ourselves together and walked in a large loop off of the trail and around the bear, and had a wonderful camping trip.