Don’t Feed the Bears!

Thirty miles from our destination and fifty miles from our starting point, our backpacking trip had ground to a halt.

 “Who’s in charge here?” she asked. I quickly indicated to her that I was the trip leader and handed over our permit. We were 35 miles from the nearest trailhead and I was a little surprised to see such a young, petite backcountry ranger this far in without a horse nearby.

 “Get your group to empty their packs and before I let you in to this Wilderness Area I need to see that all of your food, trash, and toothpaste is packed in bear-proof containers. We have a real problem here with…”  She glanced at something behind me, “s’cuze me just a second.” The ranger quickly walked over to her pack as I turned around to see where she was looking. It was a bear…A BIG BLACK BEAR… headed straight for the contents of our backpacks. The pixie-like ranger strode right by me, straight at the bear, but now she was carrying a shotgun! She marched right up to the bear, lowered the muzzle, and WHAM!, shot the bear right between the eyes from point-blank range.

 I was stunned at what had just happened! The bear squealed and whirled around, disoriented for an instant, then sprinted off into the woods. The whole event took less than 5 seconds and our whole group was staring, with our mouths open, not really able to absorb what had just happened!

 “Um, excuse me, would you mind explaining to us what just happened?” I asked very politely.

 She faced us and said, “People have been too sloppy with their food here…they even feed the bears.  Now all the bears in the area associate people and backpacks with food.” Continuing her matter-of-fact answer, “My job is to show the bears that people and backpacks do not equal food. I just shot that bear with a rubber slug, so hopefully he’ll get the message.” She paused and then said, “If he doesn’t…well…let’s finish checking your bear cans.”

Until then bear-proofing every night was a real chore – usually done begrudgingly with groaning and eye-rolling. But, that rubber bullet impacted each one of us. Our laziness, carelessness or ignorance was putting this great creature in real danger.  After witnessing the consequence of thoughtless actions, it no longer felt like a chore – now it was a compassionate duty for the safety and well-being of the bears.Dont Feed the Bears

 A “Real and True” lesson about actions and consequences was revealed to us at point-blank range. We are surrounded by “bears” all the time. As parents, teachers, mentors or leaders, we influence others by our willingness to “bear-proof” our life – to follow the rules and hold appropriate boundaries for everyone’s safety.

 My challenge to you: Go to your backpack and check to see if everything is “bear proofed”. It just might save the life of a bear!

David LePere is the executive director for Cherokee Creek Boys School, a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys ages 11-15, located in beautiful upstate South Carolina.

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comment (1)