A casual run through scenic Grand Teton National Park recently turned more nerve-racking than expected for one exercise enthusiast.
Evan Matthews was out and about for a run through the park when he noticed he was being watched, and then followed by a curious and likely hungry cinnamon phase black bear.
Luckily, the bear showed little serious interest in pursuing the jogger as its next meal, despite reportedly following him for a half of a mile.
The situation highlights the importance of preparedness in bear country, as the can of bear spray in his hand allowed Matthews to remain calm, cool, and collected during a high-stress situation.
“I went for a casual run today in the park and ended up being run at and followed for about half mile by this little cinnamon black bear who was fresh out of the den.
I’ve seen plenty of bears in the wild, but this was the first time one had shown any interest in me. He must have been extra hungry and hoping for an easy target!
Luckily this was not my first bear encounter as I have worked as a wildlife guide for Guides of Jackson Hole for several years, and have learned a good deal about the behavior of black bears in that time.”
Had he panicked and ran away from the nosey bear, it could have triggered a predatory response and initiated a chase.
Instead, he kept his distance, raised his voice, and backed away slowly. Luckily for both the bear and the jogger, the distance between the two never shrunk enough to necessitate discharge of the spray.
This situation would have been a lot more dire had this been a grizzly bear and not just a brown-colored black bear.
Nonetheless, this harrowing experience highlights the need to be prepared for encounters like this when recreating in bear country. Always carry bear spray and educate yourself on the circumstantial protocols for unintended run-ins with bears.
It might just save your life.
Last fall in Utah, another hiker had a similar experience with a mountain lion.
Kyle Burgess was running in Slate Canyon, Utah, when he realized that he was aggressively being tailed by a mountain lion. Quick thinking, he got big, he got loud, and did everything he could to scare the big cat, but she stayed behind him for more than six straight minutes.
She lunged at him with a terrifying false charge each time, but holy hell if that ain’t enough to make me leave the trail with some soiled shorts.
However, according to Kyle, the mother cougar was just protecting her 4 young cubs:
“I found what I thought were bobcats on the trail during a run. Turns out they were cougar cubs and their mother was not happy to see me.
She follows me for over six minutes acting very aggressively while I walk backwards up the trail.”
He eventually threw a rock at it, and it finally turned and ran away.