Bears have played a very colorful part in American history. They have helped make a few heroes out of ordinary men. Of course some of these men became heroes by largely exaggerated accounts of their bear encounters. Every time gossip is repeated the tale tends to grow out of proportion. Davy Crockett was supposed to have taken the life of a bear when he was only three years old. There’s even a tale of Davy “grinning” a bear down. What that meant I am not quite sure but he must have done something awfully brave or very risky. I’m betting on the last.
As long as bears and man exist on the same planet there will be instances when they come into conflict. Many times as I have hiked the trails of the Smokey Mountains and Florida swamps I have seen the tracks of bears and new they were close by. Never have I ever felt in threatened. I knew when I came upon a mother bear with cubs that they were to be avoided. One time I got on the down wind path of a forest fire and didn’t exactly know which way to run. So, I just laid down some tracks of my own and started to run for the nearest swamp bottom that had water. A mother bear with two cubs had the same idea and was trotting, with her cubs, along near me to the deep swamp for safety. When we hit the thicket she and her cubs hit the water at about the same time I did and then they vanished into the swamp.
All animals have a fight or flight survival instinct, including man. Wild animals just seem to know when to use it at the right time more often than we do. Mother bears, like humans, are very protective of their babies and will protect them with their own lives if necessary. If you find a baby bear in the woods, look out! The mother is most likely watching close by so don’t even think about sticking around. Get out of there (without the cub) as quick as you can.
Humans have made it necessary for many bears to live in an un-natural environment thereby causing some unpleasant meetings. Many black bears, here in Tennessee, have learned to eat out of garbage cans right in the middle of town. Others visit the local dump or dumpster for their suppers. Tourists love them but it can be a dangerous and messy encounter if the bear thinks the tourist wants his garbage. These old town bears usually all have tags with numbers clamped to one of their ears. If one the numbers keeps showing up in the wrong place too many times they have to be trapped and hauled back to the deep woods somewhere miles away.
Little bear cubs are cute and inspired someone years ago to come up with the teddy bear stuffed animals. Stuffed teddy bears have led a lot of people to think that real bears are cuddly and fun to play with also. Not always so. The one I used to take care of at my hometown zoo was just too rough to handle without gloves. It wasn’t long before even gloves weren‘t enough. I think that this was the juvenile delinquent of the bear clan. Even as a small cub he wanted my hand to eat, glove and all. Soon I fed him his bottle through the cage and that way I managed to keep all my fingers.
I am really looking forward to living in the New Earth where I can have a real live teddy bear, and not even have to wear gloves to play with him. The Bible says children will be able to play with lions and bears, and all animals will get along with each other. Since God created the Earth the first time He will surely do it again, and I can Bear-ly wait, how about you? Hope to see you on the trail soon.
- Uncle Burney
("McDonald Manna" July, 2007)