Encounters with wild animals while running

Satirical and absurd describe most of my posts. Sometimes I write of true events. This time is a sometime.

As a high schooler, my parents had a remote lake lot with a travel trailer, and I frequently accompanied my dad to spend a leisure working day there. One time I arranged to leave early to get in a run, and he’d pick my up on his drive home.

Running through a heavily wooded area, I saw a small animal on the gravel road ahead, running away from me. I caught up and slowed to its pace, keeping a buffer of several meters. Never before had I run in tandem with a skunk.

He ran a lot further than I thought skunks could run before stopping and facing me. He stomped his front feet which I knew was a warning that he’d spray. I didn’t react because I was a good twenty feet away, but when he turned and backed up toward me, I backed up, too.

Eventually he ran into the woods – a smarter escape route than sticking to the road.

During my college days I worked summers at a YMCA camp north of Spokane. Running alone on an old logging road one morning, I rounded a corner, and in front of me was a coyote and a badger, facing off, about to fight. It’s the only time I’ve seen a badger in the wild.Badger

(From Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Yathin S. Krishnappa)

Seeing me, they immediately fled. I ran a short distance past the spot, stopped and looked for them. I was hoping they’d come back together and resume their scuffle. I would’ve enjoyed watching a coyote-badger fight. But I apparently ruined that possibility.

Though I wasn’t on a run, my most perilous encounter occurred in a remote area of the Colville National forest in northeastern Washington a few years ago. I was doing a solitary ten-mile hike because overtraining caused a partially torn meniscus a couple weeks earlier.

I awoke an animal sleeping near the trail, and as it got to its feet, I thought it was a moose. As it galloped toward me, I saw it wasn’t a moose, but a bear.

I’ve done a lot of hiking, and several times I’ve crossed paths with bears. In every instance they fled as if I was very dangerous. I waved my arms and yelled loudly which didn’t deter him one bit.

Evasive action wasn’t an option because my torn meniscus wouldn’t allow it. I gave one last deep-throated yell and waved my arms in the most aggressive way I could. It was as if the bear was completely deaf. He closed in at a full run.

The bear skidded to a stop, his snout nearly touching my legs. I could have patted his head. Then he turned and trotted away.

Though I was concerned and hyper-alert, I didn’t experience great fear. The bear wasn’t especially hostile – no growling or baring of teeth. I believe he was groggy, and his first reaction was to run at me. I figured he finally identified I was human and did what bears normally do when they encounter people.

Thankful the situation ended well, I continued my hike, but made noise just in case the bear was still nearby.

If you find yourself wanting to read more instances of “amazing” wildlife encounters, I described a very unusual one in the previous, farcical post, “Camels vs. Humans“.