My Bear Encounter
Back in the fall of 1975 in I was living and working in the Loedgepole and Pembina Oil Fields, near Drayton Valley, Alberta. I worked for a large American Petroleum company, and did everything from repacking well heads, to electronics and telemetry maintanince. It was quite a good job I'd say. It wasn't without its dangers of course, sour gas and explosions have killed many before and since. It was often hard work too, many a time I was pulling on 48 inch pipe wrenches with snipes or pipefitting a gas station to add telemetry equipment. I was hired for my electronics knowledge, but really any Grade 8 electronics student could have done the job. Easy and honest money I always thought.
My sole experience with the local wildlife up until this day had been Beavers and white-tailed dear. I'd only seen bears from cars while traveling through Jasper National Park or through bars at the Zoo. Before this day was though though I was going to get up close to a bear, about as close as anybody can get to a bear I guess.
Anyway on this day I was looking after a group of wells, taking readings, noting if any of them required maintinance or not. A drilling rig had just moved off a well after fragging it and I was driving in to check it afterwards. You see when the production levels fall off the Engineers will decide to frag the well, they set off charges deep down in the well and fragment the rock. Then they pump down a bunch of water and crack the rock even more. All this of course takes some heavy equipment. It had been quite a wet week and the road into the well was quite muddy. The large trucks had left huge ruts, but I had a 4x4, so what's to worry about eh?
Well, sure enough about a 1/2 kilometer down the road I got stuck when I slipped down a large rut and high centred the truck. I was major stuck, I tried digging myself out but after 30, 40 min decided to walk back to the road. I was only 100 yards or so on when I noticed a small black bear cub. How cute I thought, a baby Ben! My next thought (Where's mama bear) was cut short as here she comes!! Running straight at me, snorting and moving its head side to side, it was charging straight at me from about 30 yards off.
Did I mention the mud yet, well it was that kinda clay stuff that sticks to your boots so bad you have to stop every 10 steps to scrap it off your boots. Nasty stuff, there was no way I was goanna outrun that bear.
The thought passed my mind that I just might be killed or badly maimed in the next few minutes, at the very least! I thought about it chewing on me. I thought about how I might defend myself. I thought perhaps I could thrust my arm into its mouth and tear out its windpipe, I thought about it biting off my arm in the attempt. I thought can I make it to that well over there, can I outrun the bear? Should I throw some rocks at it to scare it? Its amazing how much time you have to think when this is all going down, it takes much longer to explain it then the mere seconds it takes to transpire.
I decided the best course of action was to remain as still as possible and try to play dead if it attacked me. I hoped I could keep from screaming out in pain as a bear chewed on the back of my head. I remembered reading stories of bear attacks and how people had survived I wondered if I could do the same.
Then the bear was right in front of me. She actually stood up and roared right in my face, she stood a good foot taller than me. Not quite sure how tall I was, you see I'm just under six feet tall when barefoot but I had workboots on, workboots with sticky clay under them. I looked up and she roared right in my face, I was just mere inches away from her. I remember saying something stupid to the bear in a soothing voice along the line of please don't eat me, because I'm really a nice guy.
Well she didn't eat me, instead the bear dropped down to all fours and moved off a bit and charged me again, I held my ground still fearing to move. She charged me about four more times, each time stopping further away. I had decided I would not move until the bear was out of sight. The last I saw of the bear was it standing up behind a bush taking her last look at me.
I waited maybe 5 more sec and started backing slowly away but the bear did not return.
The biggest scare of the day was yet to come though, as I neared the road, just to the right of me, a sudden sound! Movement at the corner of my eye! My heart leapt to my throat! Holly crap, its a duck taking off from a pond! Silly duck, he,he, Yes, that darn duck got my heart pumping way more than that bear did.