I went from 1977 to 1988 without seeing a single bear, then started seeing several almost every year.
My wife thought this one was soooo cute. It was the first time she'd ever seen a bear in the wild. She told me that she wished she could scratch it behind its ears and rub it's 'wittle' tummy.
Fast forward about 4 years. Tuolumne Meadows campground. 10pm. We were sitting across from each other at the picnic table sipping beer and slapping mosquitoes. Directly behind her easily within arms reach, was the bear box. We left it ajar to make it more convenient to grab snacks, drinks, etc. We felt safe with this arrangement since, as I said, it was easily within arms reach. After all, just how brazen are these bears, anyway? Well, pretty brazen it turned out.
I saw some movement at the periphery of our lantern, and before I could say, "Whoa!", there was a large bear right behind my smiling wife- its paw rummaging inside the bear box. I calmly told my wife to come around to my side of the table. She looked at me, saw my concern and began to slide down the bench. Meanwhile the bear found something (hamburger buns, it turned out) and ran off into the dark. I rushed around the table and slammed the door of the bear box shut and stood there somewhat shaken. Less than a minute later, the bear was back for more. We had a couple of aluminum pots and lids on top of the box drying out from being washed. I grabbed a lid and threw one to my wife and we began banging away making a racket trying the scare it off, but it wasn't budging. I stood my ground next to the bear box slamming away with the pot lid and really started to become concerned about the aggressiveness of this bear. The other nearby campers saw our plight and they also began to bang pots and pans all around us. Finally, the bear slowly turned around and ambled off into the dark once more.
At one point during the encounter, I saw the flash of a camera. A nearby camper had taken its picture. He was from Denmark (that wouldn't have been you, would it, Ejnar?) and I gave him my Email address asking him to someday send me a copy. Several months later he did!
We reported the incident to the ranger who said this particular bear had a cub it was trying to feed and had become too used to people (maybe like us
) in the area and was already slated for relocating. We learned the hard way a very valuable lesson: ALWAYS KEEP THE BEAR BOX CLOSED! Even if you're sitting on it with your legs dangling down in front of the door.
My son has heard this story countless times and is certainly sick of it. But he always keeps that bear box closed.
Since then, from time to time I do like to tease my wife about the time she missed her golden opportunity to scratch a bear behind the ears and to rub its 'wittle' tummy.