OLD FORGE, NEW YORK — A 19-year-old woman from the Adirondacks was worrying her family when she didn’t return home from a run Tuesday evening.
Rachel Smith was running a typical route on a trail in the Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness Area when she came across a pair of bear cubs. Not long after, Smith encountered the mother of the cubs, who wasn’t too happy with her presence on the trail.
Smith began to run, but quickly realized that she would not be able to outrun mama bear. So, she climbed a tree and waited.
Smith told police that the mother bear waited near the base of the tree for hours, and wouldn’t leave until after dark. When Smith felt it was safe to leave the tree she found refuge in, around sunrise, she initially had trouble getting back to civilization. She didn’t have her phone with her, and her Garmin was out of juice.
Once she got back on the trail and headed for the road, she encountered a person she knew that was part of a 400+ search party for her. She got a ride home and called police to tell them what had happened.
Being very familiar with Old Forge, I know that many bears roam the woods. They’re also very curious creatures, but won’t usually confront a person. That changes drastically when you come into contact with a mama bear and her cubs, as they can become very aggressive in order to protect their babies.
Smith’s plan worked out, but don’t forget that bears are very good at climbing trees as well. Luckily for Smith, the bear didn’t follow.
Smith, if you’re reading this, don’t forget your cell phone next time! While it could be bulky to carry with you on a run, it’s a lifesaving tool that we should have with us, especially when venturing out alone.
Going for a run anywhere, let alone the middle of the Adirondacks, is a good time to carry something with you that could help during such an encounter. Bear spray is very effective and a great non-lethal way to get a bear away from you.
Making noise and waving your arms is also an effective way to get a bear to hightail it in the opposite direction.
Connecticutmag.com offers a few great tips if you happen to encounter a bear while out on a hike or run:
DO make your presence known by making noise while hiking. Hike in groups. If you see a bear, make enough noise and wave your arms so the bear is aware of your presence.
DO back away slowly if you surprise a bear nearby.
DON’T approach or try to get closer to a bear to get a photo or video.
DON’T run or climb a tree. If possible, wait in a vehicle or building until the bear leaves the area.
DO be offensive if the bear approaches you. Make more noise, wave your arms, and throw objects at the bear. Black bears rarely attack humans. If you are attacked, do not play dead. Fight back with anything available.
Remember that you’re in their world when you venture into the woods, and the use of a firearm isn’t usually needed with these encounters. If Smith were a gun person, and maybe she is, she’s still too young to carry a firearm. When she turns 21, she’d be able to take advantage of what carrying a firearm can offer, to help with anything that she may encounter while out on a run.
I’m glad to hear that she made it out alright, and hopefully she’ll grab a can of bear spray to bring along with her on her next outing.