TL and the Three Bears

Last year, on hikes, I saw bears fairly regularly, particularly through the warm season: late Spring through late Summer.  Most of my bear sightings were of the same bear family:  a momma bear, whom I named Betty, and her two cubs, Beatrice and Barney.  Last year I saw, in a lovely region I call the Shire, a young adult female who came within fifteen yards of me before noticing me and scrambling away into the brush as though her butt were on fire.  I named her Bonnie.

Well, this year, I hadn’t had a single bear sighting, and since October is nearly over, I’d pretty much given up on seeing a bear until next year. But today, hiking up to the Shire, I caught a glimpse of movement off to my left and got the impression of a big black creature moving in the brush.  Bear!, I thought, and I was right.  And not just one bear, either:  three bears.  I saw a momma bear and her cubs, and I’d be willing to bet that the momma was Bonnie, the same young adult female I’d seen last year.

Because the bears were some distance away (seventy yards or so), I had to use my zoom lens to get pictures.  By the time I had my camera out, Bonnie and her cubs (I named them Ben and Barbara) were already ambling off, but I managed to get one decent picture, albeit somewhat blurry:


Bonnie’s Got Butt! Because of all the rain we’ve had in East TN this year, the bears in our mountains have had plenty to eat. Black bears are mostly vegetarians (they eat berries, roots, buds, young plants), but they also eat insects and larvae, and sometimes small mammals when they’re easy to catch.

And lest anybody wonder: no, I’m not afraid of black bears when I hike in the woods. Sure, I use common sense — I’m aware of my surroundings, and I keep a respectful distance from the bears when I spot them. But my experience with wild black bears has shown me that they are much more afraid of us humans than we are of them.

Black bears are fascinating, magnificent creatures, and seeing one in the woods never fails to make my day. :)

Here’s a great site with a wealth of information on black bears, truth vs. fiction: North American Bear Center.

19 Responses

  1. Paul October 20, 2009 / 8:01 pm

    Wow! You are so lucky to live in such a fantastically alive part of the world. Real, live, wild bears! Wow!

  2. Leah J. Utas October 20, 2009 / 8:03 pm

    What a wonderful experience. I’m not quite as at ease about bears as you are, but I acknowledge your wise approach. It is wonderful to see them.

  3. Gabrielle Bryden October 20, 2009 / 8:41 pm

    I’m so jealous – maybe you need a ‘hide’ to get the photos. I love all your bear names. It always amazes me how vegetarians (like elephants and horses) can get so big – you’d think the meat eaters would get bigger with all those calories.

  4. thommalyn October 20, 2009 / 9:19 pm

    Thanks, Paul. I love seeing all the wildlife here, but bears are an extra-special sight. :)

    *smile*, Leah! Thank you. Black bears are much less aggressive than grizzlies, but it’s important to be careful around large wild animals.

    Yes, Gabrielle, that amazes me, too! Black bears, though significantly smaller than grizzlies, do get plenty large, especially the big boy bears. And I haven’t seen any adult male bears in person yet — only females or cubs. But the males have to be there, or there wouldn’t be any cubs, lol.

  5. bunnygirl October 21, 2009 / 12:16 am

    Hey, blog-stranger! I always like to read about your hiking adventures. Bears would make me a little nervous, but I agree the danger is overrated. You’re far more likely to be hurt in a traffic accident than by a bear, if you’re following sensible precautions.

  6. Jaimey Grant October 21, 2009 / 1:17 am

    Wow. I am a little jealous, too. I have never seen a bear; my husband has seen a few. I think he saw them when we lived in Maryland. Now we live in Michigan so bear sightings are not as likely.

    Brilliant post, as usual, Thomma!

    By the way, I added you as a NaNoWriMo buddy. I hope you don’t mind. :o)

  7. thommalyn October 21, 2009 / 3:59 am

    Hi, Bunnygirl! Thanks so much, my friend. :) Yup, the danger re: bears is greatly overrated, esp. black bears. The biggest danger with black bears is trying to get close to them and feed them. BIG no-no — a person should never do that. Grizzlies would make me more nervous than black bears, because grizzlies are quite a bit more aggressive, but following sensible precautions is always a wise choice in the woods, no matter what — from big animals to small ones (the most dangerous animals I have to think about are the poisonous snakes — we have rattlesnakes and copperheads).

    Thanks, Jaimey! Cool that your hubby has seen bears. And I’m delighted that you added me as a NaNo buddy — I added you, too!

  8. Susan Helene Gottfried October 21, 2009 / 11:39 am

    Ooh, bears. I’ve still got a healthy fear of them, I’ll admit it. Probably always will.

  9. thommalyn October 21, 2009 / 12:41 pm

    Hi, Susan! You ought to see how the black bears around here react when they see, smell, or sense a human — unless they’re some distance away, they act like they can’t run away fast enough. :)

  10. Jannie Funster October 21, 2009 / 12:45 pm

    You are such a true Mountain Woman! And an inspiration.

    We have a family of rats in our garage. The parents are Bubba and Belinda. And the wee ones I’ve named Boris, Brock, Brute, Bernice, Babs and Binkie-Boo.


  11. thommalyn October 21, 2009 / 1:47 pm

    Bwahahaha, Jannie! You always make me laugh. *snork* @ your rat names — they are hilarious, especially Brute, Babs, and Binkie-Boo (are they rat triplets?).


  12. Crafty green poet October 22, 2009 / 1:50 am

    How lovely to find the bears in the forest like that!

  13. SnaggleTooth October 22, 2009 / 2:53 am

    Wow, another great adventure with critters for lucky you!
    I’ve never seen bears here- Have seen foxes, coyotes, deer, fishers, herons, owls, n hawks, tho.

    Once during a trip to the Northern Maine area, my cousin took me to the dump at dusk to throw marshmallows to the bears- They kept a distance, n were huge, but well behaved- savoring the tastey treats-
    Of course, not threatening them (especially cubs), or keeping them from food they can smell is the common sense way to go-

  14. Maya M. October 22, 2009 / 9:31 am

    Love the photo. I think it’s true of most wild creatures that they will leave you alone unless provoked, but you just never know. Last year one of our Olympic hopefuls was mauled to death while at a mountain training camp during her daily conditioning run. Authorities speculated that she hadn’t heard the bear’s approach because she was wearing earbuds. They couldn’t give a reason as to why the animal had attacked, only speculated that they are unpredictable and it is never wise to be out in wilderness areas alone (the idea, I guess, being that if an animal did approach too closely two people had more chance of scaring them off than one.

  15. thommalyn October 22, 2009 / 10:45 am

    Thanks, Crafty Green Poet! Yes, it made my day — they’re magnificent.

    Hi, Snaggle! Awesome, sounds like you’ve seen a wonderful variety of wildlife. I’ve seen deer and hawks, turtles and frogs, and seen prints of all kinds of critters, and heard hoot owls and screech owls. And yes, you’re right — common sense is definitely the way to go with animals in the wild. :)

    Thanks, Maya! That’s awful about the bear mauling. Yes, wild animals can be unpredictable, and a person needs to be careful, aware, and be prepared. I carry a can of bear spray just in case, but I’ve never had to use it. Our black bears, where I live, have a strong natural fear of humans, but some of the black bears in Smoky Mountains National Park have lost their fear of humans because they have become used to people feeding them. Definitely not a good thing.

  16. Jannie Funster October 26, 2009 / 2:17 pm

    They are all actually rat baby orphans from different homes in our neighborhood. But they are like triplets, yes those last three.

  17. thommalyn October 26, 2009 / 2:36 pm

    Awwww, just what I figured. Their names just said so. 😉 xoxo

  18. Dorothy October 29, 2009 / 11:56 pm

    I love the names of your bears.

    Time to wake up the dragons…I’ve been stuffing mine with chocolate covered coals for a week now. All I have to do is light the fire and we’re off and running. Yay!

    New draft hugs, KS

  19. thommalyn October 30, 2009 / 8:18 am

    It’s fun to see bears. :)

    Grendel has been gorging chocolate covered coals, too — sounds like he and Glorian are ready to keep us in our writing caves. Can’t wait to light that fire!

    ((((((((((new draft hugs))))))))))), KS!

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