Okay, so technically I know I shouldn’t be jealous of these people who got to have a spontaneous picnic with a black bear, because feeding wild animals can cause massive damage to our ecosystem, and also because I would most definitely get eaten after I tried to hug the bear. But still, I cannot help myself from wishing, momentarily, that something like this would happen to me:
The above video, posted last August, was taken somewhere in Maryland, where I currently reside. I’ll admit the odds of seeing a black bear wandering the streets of Baltimore aren’t the best, but we occasionally get runaway bulls and pizza-eating squirrels, so I can see no reason not to believe that a bear could one day stop by my house for coffee and danish. And if that happens, how am I supposed to react? The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has made it illegal to feed bears, because if they get accustomed to human food and become too comfortable around people, very bad things could happen. Sure, the bear in that video looks happy with her peanut butter sandwich, but bears can’t be trusted to make any sort of good decisions when in the presence of food. Look at what happened just last week to in Grand Teton National Park.
The man behind the camera is Evan Matthews, who just wanted to go for a peaceful jog free of bear drama. Unfortunately, a black bear didn’t give a single fuck about Matthews’ plans, nor did it seem surprised that a human being was gallivanting on its turf. Surely the bear has encountered our kind before. Maybe someone one gave it a peanut butter sandwich at some point. Maybe it thought Matthews had peanut butter sandwiches in his pockets. Whatever the reason, the bear had no qualms about following Matthews down the road (despite Matthews’ warning shouts to stay back), either wanting to befriend him or eat him. Matthews managed to avoid a dangerous situation by loudly reasoning with the bear.
“I don’t care if you’re hungry!” says Matthews to the bear, as seen in the video. “I am not your food!”
According to The Bear Smart Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing human-caused harm to bears, if a bear begins to approach you, the best defense is a good offense, as Matthews demonstrated.
“Act aggressively,” reads the bear safety section of the society’s website. “Look it straight in the eyes and let it know you will fight if attacked. Shout! Make yourself look as big as possible. Stamp your feet and take a step or two toward the bear. Threaten the bear with whatever is handy (stick, pole, bear spray). The more the bear persists, the more aggressive your response should be.”
What this means is that if a bear should, perchance, find itself in Baltimore and craving some danish, it should not come to my house. However, if it’s looking for someone to scream at it for an hour it should definitely swing by, because as the mother of two teenage boys, I am very, very good at doing just that.