Monday, May 26, 2008

A Casual Meeting On The River


A retired friend was fishing the Manistee River well upstream from Mesick. He was knee-deep in the current, and working a big streamer through a deep hole, when a bear stepped out of the shadowed brush.

The animal stared at the angler, and the man stared at the bruin, and sized him up as a 250-pound adult boar. The animal glared at him, and paced back and forth along the shoreline. It seemed he wanted to cross so my friend waded downstream 100 yards, and the critter kept pace with him.That wasn’t working

He was trying to give the animal some room, and the bear seemed more interested in him. There was no huffing and puffing, or growling or clicking of teeth. Just the determination of the animal to keep pace in the direction the angler traveled.

He said he was a bit preoccupied with the bear for five minutes and then decided to go back to fishing. He cast his streamer near a brushy tangle on the opposite side of the river, and the bear seemed to be a bit upset by this.

The animal began walking back and forth a bit in what he felt was a determined effort to chase the man away. He decided that it might be best to wade back downstream to his take-out point where his car was parked.

It was a quarter-mile downstream, and he fished a bit as he waded along. He stopped two or three times along the way to work his fly through a deep hole, and the bruin again stepped out of the brush and made a big show of pacing back and forth on the opposite bank.

The bruin continue to keep pace with the angler, and at one point it stepped down to the water in what he interpreted as another attempt to scare him by wading in the shallows. The animal waded out far enough to feel the strength of the current and backed up to shore.

He said the bruin’s ears then went back, and he knew the animal was most upset. The angler picked up his pace, and the bear did the same. He was parked on a dirt road near the bridge but his car was parked on the other side of the river.

He reached the path that went up the bank and would take him across the bridge, and he looked for the bear but couldn’t see him. He stopped atop the bridge looking down the other bank, and soon spotted the animal.

It was 50 yards from his car, and as the angler explained it, he began walking toward the parked vehicle. The bear had the angle on him, and began pacing back and forth some more. He said he knew better than to run, but was fearful the animal would come up the bank after him.

He began talking to the bruin. They were nothing words, but human talk so the animal would know he was a human. As he walked slowly, and talked in a moderate tone, he took apart his fly rod and dug in his pocked for his keys.

He said he didn’t feel unduly threatened by the bear but admitted it was a troubling experience. He was 20 yards from the car and the bear was down from the road about 10 yards, watching him.

The man kept talking and walking, and soon he was at the car. He unlocked the door, tossed in his fly rod, and took another look down the hill. The bear was still watching him.

He slipped off his waders, put on his street shoes, and still the animal looked up the hill toward him. He slammed the trunk lid down, and the bruin didn’t move.

He said it was as if the animal had escorted him from his domain. He never snarled nor growled, and his neck hairs never went up.

His only sign of agitation was the back and forth pacing along the river bank. The angler sat down in his car, backed his car around, and drove up to a point where he was just above the animal.

It looked up at him, the angler looked down at him, and the bear turned and walked off through the trees, possibly to a waiting sow. The angler drove off, and felt relieved that it was nothing more that a slightly scary incident.

There used to be a bruin that lived along the Laughing Whitefish River in Alger County, and anyone who ventured into his domain was escorted off the river and back to their vehicle. Mind you, that was at least 30 years ago and this animal behaved in the same manner.

It is just another case of some pretty odd black bear behavior.

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/26 at 01:00 PM
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