Everyone who knows me knows I love animals. I love all kinds of animals, including the dangerous ones in the wild. From the safety of my television screen or the cover of a National Geographic magazine, they’re beautiful creatures. There are no tigers in our neighborhood, no rhinos running through our backyard, so there’s no reason for me to fear them. The only real "semi-dangerous" wild animal I’ve encountered in our domestic life is probably a coyote—occasionally they enter suburbia—but they’re more of a threat to small animals than to people.
In the past few years, however, I have developed a strange fear of bears. While driving up to Great Meadow, Virginia a few years ago for a camping trip, my husband and I saw a big black bear poking his head out of the trees. That pretty much ended the fun part of the camping trip for me. Our small dog was with us, and along with my own personal safety, I was suddenly terrified for her welfare (even though we were camping with about five other couples who all had small children, and they didn’t seem at all worried). My husband assured me that spotting the bear was a fluke—no other bears would be around. Once we arrived at the camp ground, however, the sign posted on the ranger station read: Mama bear and her three cubs have been seen roaming these campgrounds. Be on alert. Please use bear boxes to lock up all food.
And that just about did it for me. I spent the rest of the day expecting to see a bear lumbering into our campground, and I couldn’t sleep that night for fear of a bear attack. We ended up only staying one night and left early the next day. A camper I am not.
So during our travels this past week in California, I once again experienced my fear of the almighty bear. While hiking in South Lake Tahoe, I asked my husband, “Are there any bears around here?”
“No,” he answered. “In all the years I’ve been coming up here, I’ve never seen a bear.”The very next thing I saw was this:
Fun over.But we had friends with us, so I pushed through the fear, hiking along the wooded paths and around the lake. We even rented some bicycles and rode through the woods (I figured at least I’d have a good chance of outrunning bears on a bike).
Just as I was beginning to relax and have a good time, we stopped at a look-out point and began chatting with a couple--there with their yellow lab. Somehow the conversation turned to bears and how Lake Tahoe was filled with them.
“The last six years they’ve been really active around here and in the residential areas,” the wife told us. And then they proceeded to relay a story about their house being repeatedly burglarized by bears that literally ripped the front door off the hinges, entered the house and made themselves at home (including raiding the refrigerator). “And then they just left again,” she assured us. “The bears were gone by the time we got home.”To me, a bear home-invasion experience is much like people who hear voices in a house telling them to “get out!" A bear ripping the front door off of my home and entering it would have the same effect on me: a For Sale sign in the front yard.
So as we rode back to the camp ground to return our bikes, I felt newly assured that my fear of bears was completely justified.
What fears do you have?