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Alaska man dances with a bear

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Timothy Treadwell billed himself as bear whisperer until he was killed and eaten by a brown bear on the coast of Alaska; in today's Anchorage Daily News, a writer claims he was dancing with a bear. A grizzly, no less.

Craig Medred was out jogging when he encountered a young grizzly at close range and yelled, waved his arms, and backed away. Medred wanted to increase the distance between himself and the bear.

According to experts, Medred's reaction was a mistake. In an Outdoor Life article on bear attacks, BYU professor Tom Smith said, "Just as backing away shows fear, standing confidently means something to a bear . . . it's imperative that people not back away."

If you stand your ground, your body language tells the bear, "touch me and it will cost you. I"m willing to fight."

Medred backed away and the young grizzly followed. When Medred stopped and yelled and waved his arms, the bear would stop. He was dancing with a bear.

According to Medred, this stop and go routine continued for quite awhile. Medred reckons the stop and go routine went on for about a half mile.

Carrying bear spray or a firearm can give people the courage to stand their ground, and Medred had a can of bear spray with him. It seems like the grizzly was close enough that Medred could have sprayed the bear at any time.

Bear spray only has a range of 25-35 feet, and that's if the wind isn't blowing in your face or from the side. Years ago a reporter asked Alaska Department of Fish & Game biologist Sterling Miller how close you should let a bear get before using bear spray and he replied, "If a bear is close enough to spray, spray it!!!"

Good advice. But Medred wasn't worried about the young grizzly following him. Medred had seen a sow grizzly with a cub earlier in the day, and given all the bears in the area, he decided to save his bear spray until there was a "real need."

Stop. Retreat. Stop. Retreat. Dancing with a bear. Medred wrote, "we danced" until the grizzly got bored and left.

Medred was not so cool, calm and collected years ago when he encountered a sow grizzly with yearlings while hunting moose--with a handgun--on the Kenai Peninsula. I described the incident in Backcountry Bear Basics under the heading, "Dangerous Mistakes With Firearms."

Medred spotted a sow grizzly with yearlings about 30-35 yards away. The bears were milling around, trying to figure out what to do. Medred was dancing with a bear.

Get your gun out Medred. Get ready to shoot.

The sow charged. Shoot! Shoot!! Shoot!!! Medred didn't shoot. Medred claimed he hesitated to shoot, thinking the charging bear was bluffing.

Not until the bear was two (2) feet away did Medred bring his handgun into action, and by then it was too late. The grizzly knocked him down and injured Medred. Eventually, he managed to shoot the grizzly.

Having a firearm or bear spray does not assure your safety unless you know how to use it.

Dancing with a bear is not always a pleasure.

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