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MARTHA SEZ: ‘A bear is running at you full speed, and you’re going to just stand there?’

July 4, 2019
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

The Fourth of July holiday, which is, among other things, the traditional beginning of the Keene/Keene Valley summer tourist season. Between Independence Day and Columbus Day, vehicular traffic increases from sparse to I-can't get-get-across-the-street, and foot traffic on the mountain trails may remind you of pedestrians on a city sidewalk.

The Garden in Keene Valley is not an actual garden, but a parking lot, which is one of the main access points to the eastern High Peak Wilderness. Since there is still confusion, even among local residents, about the Garden hiking situation this summer, I include a press release from the town of Keene: "The Garden Parking Lot at the Garden Trailhead will be closed to public motor vehicles during the spring and summer of 2019 due to the replacement of the Johns Brook Bridge. ... No vehicles or pedestrians will be able to pass the bridge once construction is started through completion of the project.

Hikers and backpackers may gain access to the Garden Trailhead by parking at Marcy Field Parking Lot and using the Town of Keene Shuttle. The bus will transport hikers between the parking lot and the trail head."

In summer, bears are a topic of interest to hikers and even to local people who don't venture far from their own back yards. We have only black bears in the Adirondacks, and, while they are not particularly aggressive, they can create a ruckus. In previous years, bears were already dragging purloined garbage through town by the 4th of July.

My friend Jenny once ordered a large, economy-size sack of World's Best cat litter from Amazon. The UPS guy dropped it off on her front stoop while she was out. A bear who was nosing around in her absence happened to notice the bag and somehow carried it up into a tree. High in the branches he ripped it open, showering the ground below with litter.

This seemed to me to be an act of senseless malice on the part of the bear. I mean, what could be the point? Clambering up a maple tree toting a 25-pound sack of cat litter is no easy feat, even for a bear, and it is hard to imagine what was in it for him.

As it turns out, World's Best is made of chopped-up whole-grain corn, which solves that mystery. Bears like grain.

So far this summer I haven't heard of bears strewing garbage or otherwise causing trouble in town, and I am hoping this means that they have enough food to keep them in the forest.

I work in a store, where I have the opportunity to talk with people from all over, and I can tell you that the Adirondacks is not the only place with wildlife issues. A young woman told me yesterday that, while she is aware that people often think of New Jersey as strictly urban, the Appalachian Trail enters the state at the Delaware Water Gap and runs 72 miles before it reaches New York. She was hiking the trail when she heard a loud commotion in the underbrush and looked back to see a black bear charging toward her.

"I ran," she said. "A wildlife expert told me later, 'You shouldn't have run, bears are afraid of people. You should have stood your ground and sort of snorted through your nose.' Oh, right. A bear is running at you full speed, and you're going to just stand there?"

She said she fell down and got hurt, like the girls in bad horror movies. Then she heard a kind of whinnying, almost like a child's laughter, and saw a little faun go tearing past.

The wildlife expert told her that when bears are emerging from hibernation and are extremely hungry, they will eat fauns. So the bear wasn't really after her at all.

"He (the bear) apparently got over it and jumped into a pond for a swim," she said.

A woman from northern Ontario told me that the family German shepherd came running like crazy into the yard. On his heels came a huge bull moose that the dog had no doubt irritated in some way. The moose crashed into a wooden fence, where his antlers became stuck.

"I called my husband at work," she said. He didn't know what to do either. Eventually the moose dismantled the fence enough to get his antlers free and went back the way he came.

Have a good Independence Day!



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