Bear watch

This week our columnist Rob Brown tells us about some of his experiences with bears in the northwest

It’s been a week since the heavy rains. The woods are no longer sopping. The river is dropping. Just past the fork at the Hai Creek Forest Services Road an older Chevy pickup blocks the road. I stop. A young man scrambles out of the ditch. He’s wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans, and a ball cap. He’s packing a rifle. He has an agitated, slightly frantic look on his face as he runs over to and hops into the white pickup. I back up. He drives past me to the junction and pulls off.

I drive on. Where the young fellow emerged from the brush but farther in, another guy, about the same age, bald in the way monks are, is on his haunches. He has something down, but I can’t make out what it is because of the bush. Limited entry is in force. He may have shot a moose.

Hope it’s not another bear, I tell Oona, who sits up front in the passenger seat when I’m fishing without a partner. I hope it’s a moose. There’s been too much pressure on the Lakelse River bears in the last few years.

In the last month alone I’ve encountered a guy intent on lancing a black bear with an arrow and met a local hunting guide eager to tell me he was outside his territory and to assure me that he was not guiding the two armed camo-clad guys with him.

You after moose, I asked.

Grizzly, was the reply.

They intended to drift down to the log jam above the canyon in the small zodiac they were  packing and prowl the area.

We won’t shoot a bear anywhere where people are, the guide who wasn’t guiding assured me. The statement gave me no comfort.

The road is rough to the railway and rougher after that. I reach the mud bogged trail leading to the canyon and there is Dan Eastman. His rod is leaning up against a tree as he picks up garbage.

I stop and power the window down to thank him and tell him I am glad to see that I’m not the only guy who picks up others’ trash in the woods.

It’s terrible, said Dan. Even worse around our place.

I ask him about Trevor and Tyler. Dan tells me Trevor is in Alberta, and that Tyler, his youngest son, now lives in Old Remo since acquiring Smith’s place. He’s married and has a couple of kids. Then he tells me how Tyler and his wife, who was his fiancee at the time of the incident, had an encounter with a grizzly while biking the back roads behind Houston.

Tyler was ahead and had stopped to let his fiancee catch up. He heard a cry, turned, and saw her biking frantically up the road—a brown bear in pursuit. He raced  toward them, got between the bear and its intended victim, lifted his bike over his head and roared. Tyler is tall man. Fortunately, the bear stopped, then turned and loped back in the direction from whence it had come.

Tyler and his wife returned to their truck and drove back to the spot where they’d had their close encounter. When they arrived, the grizzly rushed at the truck. It was then that the couple saw that the bear had been on a kill when they had passed by.

I tell Dan of the time Alice Sexton  was driving her daughter to a gymkhana in Prince George when they saw a cyclist bolting down highway 16 with a grizzly close behind and gaining. Alice raced up to the bear and began honking her horn, enough, apparently to dissuade the furious bruin. Alice pulled over to see if the cyclist was okay at a nearby rest stop. After thanking her for saving his life, the man explained that he had pulled off onto the shoulder to relieve himself and discovered that there was a bear chewing on a kill just off the shoulder a few feet away.

After catching up with Dan, I drive down to the next pull out and parked next to another Mazda pickup. As I was suiting up, a fisherman packing a casting rod came walking down the road to his truck.

I assume you did the loop, I say, referring to the upstream walk from the trail where he’d parked his truck to the canyon and back.

He says he has, and to my next query, says he saw no coho on his jaunt.

See any guys in fur coats? I ask, bears still on my mind after my talk with Dan.

No, he says, then proceeds to tell me of the time he’d been forced up a tree by an angry bear and had to stay there for hours before deeming it safe to leave.

Oona and I make our way down river, past fish hauled out by bears, bear scat, then take  a bear trail through long grass to the river. I released a dozen silver trout and lose what I’m sure must be a steelhead, but could be a coho—under the supervision of bears, I have no doubt.