The interesting thing about these last two stories is in the first instance dogs caused the problem and in the second dogs saved the day. After doing some research this past week into the effectiveness of bear bells and whistles I realized they are a lot like having dogs as a deterrent. It can go either way.
I went to our big outdoor store on Sunday fully intending to buy some bear bells and a whistle. The bells are meant to let bears know you are in the area. The whistle is for scaring "reluctant to move along" bears away. The woman who helped me discouraged me from buying the bells. She said the tinkling of the bells can actually attract bears. Worse, they can also attract cougars. Gulp. Needless to say my only purchase was a whistle.
Caution: Do not blow a Fox 40 whistle directly in a person's ear.
While searching Google for an answer to the bell dilemma I came across a book called Don't Get Eaten. Since this was my goal, although in starker terms than I would have chosen, I decided to have a closer look. The author, Dave Smith, had some great advice about cougar encounters. He went in stages, starting out with how to avoid cougars in the first place, then moving on through how to react if you do have an encounter based on the level of aggression the animal is exhibiting. He lost me somewhere around the stage where the cougar "is staring intensely and trying to hide, combined with crouching and/or creeping toward you." I am sure his advice is sound, but I think it would be rather hard to implement after one had fainted.
My recent interest in avoiding bear encounters has been motivated by more than the news stories I mentioned earlier. Last week a friend and I were out on the trail and when we came to a patch of Saskatoon berries I noticed some broken branches on the biggest bush.
We weren't left wondering for long what had done the damage. Rounding the corner on the other side of the bushes we came across this.
1. It was a small bear. (I am operating under the assumption that small bears only take small bites.)
2. It wasn't a cougar.