Tonight, I was walking around Lower Pines Campground when some visitors pointed out a bear that had just walked past their campsite. I caught up to the bear, chased it for a few seconds, and then lost sight of it in the middle of the campground and couldn’t find it again. Bears are sneaky. Very sneaky.

I went back to the campsite to talk to the visitors who’d just seen the bear. They related that they had seen a bear a few hours earlier. The campground host had just talked to them about bears and how it’s important to always keep food within arm’s reach because a bear can enter a campsite any time. The visitor turned and walked to his picnic table (with food beyond arm’s reach) and as he arrived at the table, a bear put his paws up on the other side of the table to grab the food. The visitor was startled, but the bear was well practiced: the bear grabbed the food and moved on, without seeming to mind being just a few feet from a person. The bear then continued on to the next campsite and got more food. By then, the campground host realized what was happening and scared the bear away.

It’s common for campers to not take us seriously when we say that a bear can enter a campsite at any time, even while people are around. Though it’s not the best scenario, I have to say that there’s a certain satisfaction to having a bear walk into a campsite while I’m telling disbelieving campers this, or when that happens just a few seconds after I leave. I guess it’s the “I told you so” effect.

While listening to tonight’s campers, still somewhat in disbelief about how a bear would walk into a campsite with people active in it and a campfire going, I was wishing I had a video camera so I could play this back to the nonbelievers.

Though, I have to say, even more frustrating than the nonbelievers are those like the campers I talked to a few nights ago. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “So, make sure your food locker is always closed and any food you have out is always right in front of you, within arm’s reach.”

Campers with ice chests out and locker open, 15 feet away: “Oh yeah, we’ll take care of it.”

Me: “So, if you could close up the locker and put that food [that you’re not using] away now… a bear could enter your campsite even while you’re here and start eating your food!”

Campers: “Yeah, that’s happened to us before.”

Sadly, this is not an infrequent occurrence.

I thought people were supposed to learn from their experiences. The bears sure do. Some people sure don’t. What’s that say?