A Bear-y Close Encounter at Philmont Scout Ranch

CINNAMON COLORED BLACK BEARS ARE FOUND IN OPEN MEADOWS THROUGHOUT THE WESTERN STATES.  IMAGE: ©James Mattil⎮ DREAMSTIME.COM

Boy Scouts & Bears. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 

We talk a lot about being responsible wildlife viewers around here. You know, follow a couple of rules like, for example: Give wildlife space, and the experience should be good for everyone. The goal is simple: the humans, "Us" get to experience animals in the wild, and the wildlife, 'They', if they care to, can look back. From a distance. 

When the "Us" is a group of almost-adult Boy Scouts trained practically from birth in responsible outdoors best practices, a weekend-long campout and geology lesson on Baldy Mountain with an experienced, retired geologist, and wildlife conservationist should be stress-free. Heck, it should almost be mundane! What could possibly go wrong? 

Sometimes the wildlife just does not follow the rules. 

Incident At Philmont Scout Ranch

The following is an "incident report" from New Mexico's Philmont Scout Ranch, where Ed Warner has, for 24 years, run an annual weekend campout teaching real-life geology to volunteers. 

ON BALDY MOUNTAIN FOR A GEOLOGY LESSON WITH A GROUP OF BOY SCOUTS..  PHILMONT SCOUT RANCH, CIMARRON, NEW MEXICO.  IMAGE: ED WARNER.

July 12
Baldy Town
Philmont Scout Ranch
Cimarron, New Mexico

Today, Ed and Jackie Warner had a close encounter with one of Philmont's notorious cinnamon colored black bears.  At 5:45 AM the 450-pound rascal got between the wood frame and the canvas side of the staff tent they occupied and woke Ed up by trying to sit on his head.  

Ed, groggy from all the incredibly hard work he does, climbing Baldy every day and talking endlessly about geology, thought a freak gust of wind had hit the tent. But, after about the third massive thump over his head, he sat up and looked around just in time to see beautiful sparkly sunlit holes in the shape of bear claws appearing in the canvas. 

This is Ed's report on happened next: 

"I really got mobilized when the bear started ripping the tent. I jumped out of my sleeping bag, turned around and thumped the bear with my fist through the canvas.  He clawed a big gash in the tent, and I whacked him again as hard as I could.  I expected him to stick his head in next and I was prepared to smack him right on the nose.  

ROCK HAMMER FOR COLLECTING ROCK & MINERAL SPECIMENS. IMAGE: ©Andrey Simonenko⎮ DREAMSTIME.COM

"He (the bear) finally moved off the tent, so I jumped up, shouting ‘Hey!, Hey!' yelled at Jackie to get dressed, get the other two volunteers to the staff cabin (Baldy Museum) and, staying completely calm,  I charged out of the tent after the bear. 

"During my thirty-five years doing field geology, I always knew someday I'd use my rock hammer as a weapon against some dangerous animal.  The hammer was right at my feet.  I completely forgot it.  

"I ran after the bear shouting ‘Hey'!  Here again, I forgot what I was supposed to do.  I forgot to shout ‘shoo, bear.'  The bear was ambling off and stopped and turned back toward me. He woofed.  I stopped too.  I'd already punched him.  Running up and kicking him didn't seem prudent.  

"He (the bear) woofed me again, and I finally looked down so as not to make any more eye contact.  He ‘woofed' again, turned around and ambled into the aspen grove.  At that point, I realized I had a couple-pound chunk of volcanic dacite in my hand, was barefoot (bear-foot?) standing on sharp rocks, and dressed in my ‘jammies.'  Ouch!"

That ends the official transcript of Ed’s post-bear interview with Rod, Abby, and Brett (the Bear Police).

THE GUILTY PARTY WAS NOT QUITE THE FEROCIOUS BEAST THE REPORT IMPLIES. BUT ANY BEAR CAN BE DANGEROUS WHILE LOOKING FOR FOOD.  IMAGE: ED WARNER.

The matter was assumed passed into capable hands, however, a little while later Ed, now fully dressed, and Jackie were back  - this time to petition Rod, Abby, Brett and the higher Bear Authority for clemency for ‘their' bear.  

Addendum to the Official Bear Incident Report. 

"Please don't kill him," said Jackie and Ed together, "after all he hasn't eaten even ONE BOY SCOUT.  We think the three strike rule should apply."  

The Bear Authority is taking the matter under advisement. 

End of Report. 

Reporter:  Bearnard Roddenbear,  At Base Camp