by CHRIS D’ALESSANDRO
While writing up the last issue I was thinking about this very funny story I heard about a bear once. The story is not my own but as we really hope that others will contribute with their encounters, I will repeat it as I heard it. It’s priceless.
There was a famous guide/outfitter who hunted out of Pincher Creek Alberta in the 60s named Andy Russell. When Andy’s boys reached the age to take over the outfit, they hung up their rifles and bought a lot of high-tech movie equipment of that era and began making wildlife movies. Good wildlife footage was rare back then, and they made a number of excellent wildlife movies. Andy also wrote at least four books that I know of. The movies originally had the same titles as his highly successful and very popular books the best known being “Horns in the High Country.” In the 70s, Andy Russell would take his movies and show them on a scheduled circuit across western Canada and he would answer questions and chair an interesting forum after each session. I was lucky enough to attend one of his showings in Jasper in 1977 when he related his grizzly bear story. It is also described in one of the books, but hearing it in person was more compelling. I’ll do my best to retell it.
Andy was doing some work in the summer on his guide area, traveling with saddle horses and pack train. As the tale goes, he and whoever he was with had stopped to take a break on the trail and were enjoying lunch across from a large avalanche slide while a large cow moose was enjoying the lush early summer feed the slides are noted for producing. They watched the cow for quite a while and she seemed to be unaware of them and totally content with the lunch she was having when down at the bottom of the slide a huge silvertip grizzly emerged from the brush. Even though he was a couple hundred meters from the cow the large boar immediately went into a crouch position and began slowly and painstakingly stalking the moose. Andy and his companions were riveted by the apparent drama taking place.
It is very unusual for a bear to get the chance to take down a moose and virtually impossible to witness. He described the bear’s deadly focus and attention as he closed the distance between him and his prey, step by step. Everyone was sure they were going to see a take down in the next few seconds as the griz made his final approach. He was within a few feet of the cow, but instead of grabbing and mauling her he suddenly jumped straight up in the air and came down with all four feet simultaneously and let out a series of loud “woof-woofs” that a bear will often do. The poor old cow liked to jumped out of her hide, she went straight up in the air and across the slide in a heartbeat with the life scared out of her. Andy said after that as he watched the bear leave the slide area he swore he could see what was akin to a smirk on that the old boars face and a chuckle in his soul, he saw a chance to play a prank on one of his unfortunate neighbors and did it with a relish. I think it is a fantastic story and very revealing about the hidden side of the wild critters that share our valley.
Anyone else have a story to share?
About this column: The Eye of the Raven is a forum of interesting and unusual animal tales exploring the viewpoint of the four-legged and feathered members of our community. As a raven lives as long as a human and has incredible eyesight, the forum is based on observations that perhaps only a raven would see in the course of his life, encounters that we as humans are allowed to see only as the veil that hides the mysteries of nature is briefly parted. The forum is open to the accounts of anyone who can articulate an unusual or remarkable encounter with a wild animal under 500 words, subject to editor’s approval.