How To Deal With Angry Bears

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World War II American GI's handing out chewing gum (Photo Francis Reiss 1945)
American GI's handing out gum Photo - Francis Reiss

It was as a little boy in my hometown of London, England, in World War II that I first came to admire Americans. We would yell “got any gum, chum” at the US soldiers. They would then shower us with candy, which was quite something in those days of strict food rationing. Of course, at that time, I had no idea that I would myself eventually become an American. Long before my naturalization however, there was an incident that renewed my respect for Americans. We were staying in one of a group of log cabins high in the Canadian Rockies.

Log Cabin at Lake Louise
Log Cabin at Lake Louise

There were bears in the area. They showed little interest in tourists like us. They were more interested in finding food in our garbage cans. However, they could kill, if they were bothered. What impressed me most was their speed over the ground. For such bulky animals, they can certainly move fast.  They easily outrun any human. If one wants to escape from an angry bear, one cannot do it by running away.  I was aware of all these facts at the time, but had not quite worked out what to do if confronted by an angry bear. Therefore I was terrified, when I saw a bear looking in on me through the window of our log cabin.

 

The bear was not angry.  It was only looking for some scraps of food.  I guess that I was of no interest to it in that respect, because it soon moved off.  The next day I mentioned this incident to the American tourists staying in the next cabin. I asked them what I should have done, if the bear had jumped my through my window or beaten down my door. Should I have curled up in a ball and hoped that it would go away? Actually, I couldn’t even have done much, since I was paralyzed by fear.

Polar bear looking through cabin window
Polar bear looking through cabin window

“It looked through our window as well”, the Americans told me, “so we just reached for our camera and shot a great picture”. What a fearlessly American reaction! That incident occurred in August 1975, when I was visiting Alberta, Canada. It was a wonderful trip. I flew into the city of Calgary and rented a car. I first drove west up into the Rockies and thru the famous mountain resorts of Banff and Jasper. Then I traveled north to Alberta’s capital city of Edmonton, and finally south down the interstate and back to Calgary to complete a long and memorable journey. Much of the mountainous resort area is designated as national park and remains completely unspoiled. The most spectacular sight was Lake Louise. It takes one’s breath away.

 

Fairmont Hotel on Lake Louise
Fairmont Chateau Hotel on Lake Louise

The lake is located at the foot of the Victoria Glacier, which looms over it and is snow capped year round. The water in the lake is a milky blue, unlike any water I have ever seen elsewhere. Now the color of water is important. I doubt that the Caribbean would be nearly so popular, if the sea there was not that lovely turquoise color. The color of Lake Louise is likewise what makes it so popular.

Princess Louise, Queen Victoria's 4th daughter
Princess Louise

Incidentally, who was Louise? She was the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria after whom the big glacier nearby was named. The lake was originally called something else by guy who discovered it in 1882, but the government quickly renamed it in honor of the queen’s daughter. The lake is at 5039 feet above sea level and the village that sits on its shore is the highest permanent settlement in Canada. That village is dominated by Chateau Lake Louise, a large and very grand hotel built by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company at the end of the 19th century. Their aim was to attract wealthy Easterners to travel across Canada by rail in order to stay at the hotel. What I have omitted entirely is the fact that Lake Louise is one of Canada’s finest ski resorts. That is because I was there during a pleasantly warm August with a lack of snow on the ground, which makes skiing a bit tricky! However, one can still take advantage of the many chair lifts to reach a higher altitude. One can then avoid both a tiring climb and an angry bear. Bob