The top two questions I am asked from people about hiking in the Adirondack high peaks wilderness area concern how often I see bears and why I am not afraid to hike in “bear country.” It is true with some 4,000 black bears the Adirondacks has the third largest bear population in the eastern United States.
Black bears are relatively shy, are emboldened by the presence of food and like most mammals become aggressive when sensing a threat.
I have not seen a single bear in the wild. The only bears I have personally seen or heard in the Adirondacks have been around the family camp and in the past when there used to be open dumps.
From stories told to me over the years by rangers, I am amazed more people have not been harmed by bears due to a simple lack of common sense.
One story involved a photographer who went to one of those open dumps and covered himself with garbage to camouflage himself when the bears came to feed.
I believe that story as one time I went to photograph the bears at a dump for an Adirondack newspaper. I had my long telephoto lens pointing out the window of my vehicle and as the bears lumbered toward the large open pit I noticed a very large man with a loud Hawaiian shirt, shorts, straw hat and wearing flip-flops tip-toeing with his tiny camera along a ridge in an effort to get close to his prey. How in the world he thought he could sneak up on anyone in that manner, much less the bears, was beyond me and for a split second I thought, ‘this is not the story I was sent here to cover!’ Fortunately, he backed off and there was no incident.
Another story the ranger told me was about an incensed father and mother who came to him to report an aggressive bear. The parents were trying to place their child on the back of a small bear for a photograph, and the mother bear growled at them. Now, can you imagine the nerve of that terrible bear!
The most unusual black bear story I have heard involved the late movie theater in Inlet, NY. A former owner of the theater told me a black bear entered the back door of the theater and during the showing of a film walked up the center aisle and out into the lobby where it stuck its head in the popcorn machine, licked in clean, and walked out the front door!
The Black Bear is not the most dangerous animal in our northern wilderness. Neither are coyotes or bob cats.
Deer are certainly a great nuisance along the highways and can carry ticks infected with Lyme Disease which is a serious problem if left untreated. When hiking we wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and gaitors treated with Insect Shield® and still always check for ticks.
And of the three species of poisonous snakes in New York, only the Timber Rattler is found north in the Adirondacks, and mostly around the higher elevations along Lake George and Lake Champlain. According to the DEC, “in New York there have been no records of human deaths attributable to rattlesnakes in the wild in the last several decades.”2
The creatures that are the greatest direct threat to humans in the wild if attacked… are you ready? Bees!
According to a chart published by the Washington Post “…the number 1 animal killers on an annual basis (throughout the United States) are bees, wasps and hornets, responsible for 58 deaths each year - mostly due to anaphylactic shock after a sting.” 3
This does not surprise me. I had a run-in with a swarm of these creatures during a bushwhack several miles and hours into the wilderness interior. Fortunately, after multiple stings, I had no allergic reaction.
So, maybe the better question to ask someone who hikes in the wild might be: “Have you seen any bees lately?”
Question: Have any personal stories about run-ins with creatures in the wilderness? Let us know in the comments below!
1 ESF brochure: Adirondack Black Bears
2 DEC Timber Rattlesnake Fact Sheet
3 Christopher Ingraham in Chart: The animals that are most likely to kill you this summer
Question: How do you visit a community that has an independent bookstore and not stop in?
Answer: You don’t! You stop in!
For our 37th wedding anniversary Carol & I (Gary) spent a few days in Vermont, and it was in Woodstock where we discovered Vermont’s oldest independent bookshop established in 1935.
We stopped in where I picked up the first volume from Ellen Potter’s brand-new children’s book series.
The last Saturday of April is Independent Bookstore Day. If you are fortunate enough to have a local indie bookstore, let them know how much you appreciate their presence in your community.
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© 2018 Adirondack Kid Press, Ltd.