Editorial: Facing a Grizzly

By Loxton, Daniel | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Editorial: Facing a Grizzly


Loxton, Daniel, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


Growing up in bush-camps in Northern British Columbia, Canada, I'd seen many black bears, but, although I'd seen documentaries and Hollywood movies about grizzlies, I'd never seen a grizzly in the wild. Then, as a young man, I began my career as a shepherd Up near the Alaska panhandle. Three of us grazed our sheep on clear-cut tree plantations, deep in grizzly country, far from civilization.

When we started encountering grizzlies, they caused no trouble, but they were truly awesome nonetheless. Like Reinhold Messner, I was humbled and fearful to observe their combination of immense size, power, and eerie, silent stealth. These animals can weigh well over a thousand pounds, yet you can no more hear them walk by than you would a housecat. Sometimes I would turn around for some unrelated reason, and gee!--there would be a grizzly just a few yards away--having a look at us, or just indifferently walking by. I'd get chills when this happened, knowing that it was only luck that I even knew the huge predator was there.

Then, one day, while walking 1500 sheep down a densely forested logging road (like shepherding a river of wool!), I saw a monster. I had turned around, herding along the stragglers among the sheep ... and then, suddenly, in total silence, there was a giant, shaggy, meat-eating monster charging at us. Our pack of huge white guard dogs halted his attack, holding him off in a frenzied showdown of swiping claws and barking, each trying to scare the other off. I watched this as I scampered for safety, putting more of the sheep between me and the bear, while warning the other two shepherds by walkie-talkie. After a lot of bluffing on both sides, the bear sprinted away with the dogs chasing after him.

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