Trail Running and Bears
Last week, the sun was out, it was a beautiful morning for a run. I decided after some contemplation to take my dog Teddy Bear with me. Originally I had planned to run alone but later you will understand why I was extra thankful to have Teddy along. We moved within the past year so I am just discovering all of the new (to me) trails in the area. Over the weekend our friends had taken us on a short hike at the Lyme Hill Conservation Area with our kids and dogs. The trail is meandering but a nice little hill climb to get ready for some hilly summer runs and races. This trail has a nice little vista at the top and can also connect onto a road to make a larger 6 or 7 mile loop. I knew this would be the perfect place to run with my dog after dropping the kids off at school, being that it was right down the road.
I packed everyone into the car for school and Teddy was eager to run since I had put on his harness. Teddy and I dropped the kids off and headed to the trail head. There were a couple of cars in the parking lot so I decided to keep Teddy on leash on the trail because I wasn’t sure if we would see any other dogs. The trail is fairly smooth and wide so easy to run with a dog on leash. We meandered along the trail. It was perfect. Quiet, the sun casting sunbeams through the canopy overhead, only the occasional rustle of a squirrel running by. We got about halfway up the trail when all of a sudden I heard a rustling of leaves, and then, not a squirrel but a giant black mama bear lumbered through the trees not far from us and came incredibly close. I lost my breath for a moment and thought to myself, “here I am alone with a snack (for a bear) sized dog clipped to my waist, this is not good.” And she was moving closer. In a moment of clarity I un-clipped teddy and the leash and prayed for his safety as he took off at a sprint down the trail. The bear seeing him go began at a run after him. I was terrified and so worried about Teddy Bear.
I was panicking. My adrenaline raced through my body. I didn’t know whether I should head down the trail for fear of the bears return. I instinctively called my husband on my cell phone, the reception was patchy but what I got was him was to try to stay calm and to call 911. I quickly called 911 and explained what was happening. They told me to remain as calm as possible and to try to head down the trail. I stayed on the line with them for a while until they got me through to the local police who promised to send an officer to the trail. I quickly but as quietly as possible walked down the trail. As I moved down I heard rustling in the woods and could see the bear again about 25 feet away from me circling back up through the woods. My pace quickened. I was so very worried about my sweet puppy and just wanted to get out of those woods.
Finally, I came to the trailhead and could see my car and the outline of my dog Teddy Bear sitting safely by my car. As I approached him calling his name he howled at me. At first he didn’t want me to come close and backed away from me. He too was terrified. He just had the run of his life! I had some dog treats in the car which I held out for him, he decided that I was safe and came near enough for me to grab him and put him safely in the car. I was so thankful that my sweet puppy was okay. He is my hero for leading the bear away from me. The police cruiser pulled in and I told the police officer my story. He said that the fact that the bear circled back means that there were probably cubs nearby.
The advice that I have received from so many people following this terrifying close encounter of the bear kind are these three things:
- Carry a whistle.
- Run with a group. Safety in numbers!
- Use a BEAR BELL.
I will be continuing to trail run but will probably be looking for some more well-traveled trails to run on for now and am definitely ordering some bear bells for my pack and for Teddy Bear. I still can’t believe that this happened as it was one of my worst fears for trail running!
Have you ever had a close encounter with a bear or other wildlife when you have been out on a run?