Outdoors lovers should be wary of the ‘bear’ necessities


For so many young men and women who’ve enjoyed the great outdoors in Pennsylvania while camping, the experience was one that won’t soon be forgotten.

Unfortunately, for at least two young people, those memories may be more negative than positive.

One involved a 12-year old Boy Scout who had been bitten by a bear through the side wall of his tent while camping in Carbon County’s Hickory Run State Park.

Allegedly, the boy had candy on him in a tent when a bear suddenly bit through the tent side and latched onto the thigh of the boy. When the boy screamed, the bear released and ran away.

The boy wasn’t seriously injured, but the Game Commission followed through with setting up non-lethal traps. They did catch one bear that weighed more than 250 pounds and relocated it approximately 40 miles away.

Of course, the story led to a huge public outcry. People from all over were outraged that the bear bit this boy and I’m sure there are parents all over who will be second-guessing themselves when they consider sending their son or daughter into the woods when the next camping trip rolls around.

This situation is bad for everyone involved, I realize. I can imagine the boy was traumatized and may never venture into the woods again. It is bad for Scouting, because stories like these lead to parents becoming gunshy over their child’s safety. It is bad for the park, which will almost certainly be avoided by numerous people who would rather not meet a wild bear in person.

However, what about the bear? As the seasons change, bears start foraging more than ever before hibernation season sets in. Scouting and other organizations stress that kids should not sneak food into their tents. Bears have an uncanny sense of smell.

“Their nose is so acute. They can smell food over a mile away. They are going to make use of any food supply they can find,” Game Officer Fred Merluzzi explained after the situation.

In nature, a bear finds food many times by smell. In this case, the bear was being a bear. When camping, we are the ones intruding upon the bear’s natural environment and interfering with the bear’s natural instincts and habits.

Back in May, there was a similar case where a Girl Scout in a camp near White Haven woke up in the middle the night as a bear was pulling her out of her tent. It had latched onto the end of her sleeping bag and was pulling the bag out of the tent. Again, when the girl screamed, the bear took off and she was unscathed. There was never any word about the girl having food items in her tent, but to this day, I would be willing to bet a buffalo nickel that she had a few Doritos stashed in the sleeping bag or wore perfume or had other items that smelled, to the bear, like food.

Remember how annoyed we get with that one hyperactive housefly that ‘invades’ our home and zips around our heads like a tornado on Red Bull? In the great outdoors, we are the housefly.

I know that kids may be kids, and that sneaking candy into a tent can be more of a Scouting pasttime than tying knots, but it is our responsibility as adults to educate our youth on being responsible outdoorsmen.

~ by zaktansky on April 4, 2013.

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