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      What would you do #14 - A Friend's Story     

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Canoearoo
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04/06/2021 08:47AM  
This is a story told to my by my friend. She asked me what I would have done, so now I ask you the same thing. I don't know the date or location except it was on the Ely side and before 2007 (when she told me).

My friend and her husband were on their first BWCA trip, fully outfitted. They were having a wonderful time with perfect weather. Mid-week after dinner, they could hear screaming across the lake. At first, they thought it was teens having fun, but then the screaming didn't stop. They hopped into their canoe and began to paddle. As they approached the camp, they could see it was in shambles. Stuff was everywhere. Things were ripped to shreds.

As they landed, a couple runs up, still in panic mode. They said a bear came into camp. This bear was not afraid of people and nothing they could do scared it away. After the bear got the food that was hanging in the tree, it didn't leave. Instead it went after all their gear, ripping it apart looking for more. It then went to their tent and tore it apart, destroying everything inside. The camp and gear were totally destroyed.

The bear had been gone for 20 minutes so my friend and her husband helped pack up what they could and invited them to come stay at their camp for the night. They and the other couple loaded up and headed back to their camp.

As they approach, they see their tent is gone. They land and see their once clean camp has their things also ripped up and shredded. Even their Bible that was in the tent has a big bite out of it and claw marks (she showed it to me when she told me this story). It is now 10pm and the sun has set.

I know what they did. What would you do?
 
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Speckled
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04/06/2021 09:29AM  
I'd gather my stuff and we'd move on with the other group. Depending on how far we are from the entry we'd either just paddle straight out or end up at another lake and sleep under the stars for the night, paddling the rest of the way out in the morning.
 
nofish
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04/06/2021 09:54AM  
As I see it the only option is full retreat. I'd start making my way back to the EP. Depending on what usable gear I have left, how far it is to the EP, and how wired I am with adrenaline I may stop and spend the rest of the night at a campsite far enough away to ensure no more encounters with that bear.
 
MikeinMpls
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04/06/2021 01:29PM  
So both camps got hit?

Mike
 
trstuck
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04/06/2021 02:32PM  
Wow. This bear is not just aggressive, it is most likely rabid or deranged and dangerous. Way beyond normal bear behavior. I agree with others that no matter how late or dark it is, it's time to go. Hopefully the misfortunate couple will be willing to exit with you at the same EP - you can help each other on the portages. Gather as many stones as you can find in case it comes back while you pack up camp. Make sure you have extra headlamp batteries accessible and head to the EP or at minimum 2 lakes away. Don't leave any gear at the portage on this lake - if you have to double, leave two people with gear while the others portage and return . You may have to ask if you can stay with other campers if sites are occupied.
 
Harv
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04/06/2021 02:35PM  
Paddle out
 
BearBurrito
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04/06/2021 03:22PM  
Time to leave.
 
Savage Voyageur
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04/06/2021 04:51PM  
I would hope you’re night time navigational skills are up to date. I’m talking getting out of the area totally and exiting. This would involve maps and compass and a GPS with extra batteries, and headlamps with extra batteries. Night navigation is where a GPS comes in handy. A mapping GPS will bring you right to a portage.
 
Canoearoo
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04/06/2021 04:55PM  
MikeinMpls: "So both camps got hit?


Mike"


Yes
 
paddlefamily
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04/06/2021 05:14PM  
What an awful experience!

If I no longer had working gear to safely stay in the woods for multiple nights and any seasonal weather conditions, I would clean up the gear and start heading out. If conditions changed or it became unsafe while exiting or the distance too far, I'd try to cobble together a hasty camp on another lake (I carry a small ditch kit in my pfd for an emergency like this). Then, I'd head out the following morning.

About 10 years ago, while in Wabakimi, we had to paddle and portage through part of the night to get away from a very close forest fire that blew up quickly. Being that we were on a pretty small river, it was safer for us to break down camp and get closer to a larger body of water. The wind direction had changed and smoke was blowing toward us and ash was falling from the sky. So, I know what's it like to move to a safer location overnight. The biggest thing is to try and stay calm (once the initial excitement has passed) and come up with a flexible plan while keeping an eye out for things to change.



 
04/06/2021 10:06PM  
Make for the exit from this lake and as far as you can to avoid this bear.
 
04/07/2021 08:04AM  
Your tent is ruined beyond repair? Duct tape can fix a lot. If there is enough left to fix it for a couple nights and the food didn't get taken because it was hung, then I could see potentially continuing the trip in a different area far from the bear. But that night, I'm putting some distance between both groups and that bear. No way I'm taking chances with a bear that active and aggressive. If the EP is close enough to get to that night then there is no question, you make for it and inform the forest service ASAP. But if you have to camp out for a night regardless, then I could see talking it over with the rest of the group and seeing if they are willing to repair what they can and continue the trip.

Being fully outfitted is a concern as well here that I have never had to deal with. Maybe you have no choice but to head back ASAP once their gear gets destroyed. Or maybe it means that your trip now has a bigger price tag and you have more of a reason to make the most of it. All this is dependent on there being food left and the tent being repairable though. Without either of those, you are done and it is time to leave.
 
treehorn
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04/07/2021 09:03AM  
He already hit the two camps, he is probably heading for other ones and done with yours.

I'd make a big fire and huddle around it all night until sunrise, then make tracks.

I'm not a fan of trying to navigate in the dark...on water or portages.
 
MikeinMpls
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04/07/2021 10:14AM  
treehorn: "He already hit the two camps, he is probably heading for other ones and done with yours.


I'd make a big fire and huddle around it all night until sunrise, then make tracks.


I'm not a fan of trying to navigate in the dark...on water or portages."


I agree with Treehorn. Trying to navigate and/or exit in the dark might lead to another set of problems you simply don't need.

The first priority is personal safety. Whatever it takes to insure personal safety should be done. That's a decision that has to be made on the ground based on a number of factors, but compromising safety to save gear (aside from the canoe and paddles) is not wise. The exception would be if the weather elements were such that you would risk hypothermia, for example, without rain gear or a sleeping bag. Again, the decision has to be made on the ground at the time.

I will contradict myself a bit. If it is determined that escaping into the canoe on to the lake is the best course of action, then do it. If that means you have to paddle in a circle all night, that's ok, it will keep you warm. Then damage assessment can be done in the morning. If it helps that the two parties join forces (two inspect their own camp while the other two watch for the return of the bear) to see if the trip is salvagable, that might be a good idea, too.

Mike
 
missmolly
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04/07/2021 11:26AM  
I'd bolt. Paddling at night isn't ideal, but I've done it many nights. I remember reading about a paddling doctor who was killed by a bear at Missinaibi Lake. It's a rare thing when a black bear kills, but it happens. A quartet greatly increases their safety. They should also formulate a plan if they encounter the bear on a portage trail.
 
sedges
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04/07/2021 11:50AM  
If there is not a fire ban I would build a good fire.

I would assess what light resources the group possessed. No point in starting out in the dark and have flashlights and headlamps go dim.

If good batteries are at hand keep the fire going and gather in all the scattered gear. Put the canoes in the water and loaded with gear.

If the bear is gone, hang out around the fire until dawn and head out traveling hard. There are very few places in the BWCA that you can not get out from in day. Doing portages in the dark is just begging for injury.

If the bear shows up again, the canoes are ready and you can head out in the dark.

I had a situation where we had a mamma w/ 2 cubs in camp about 2:30 AM and the cubs ended up climbing a tree in the middle of camp. We posted one person to watch the bears and keep the rest of us aware of what they were doing and where. The rested of us packed the outfit and loaded the boats. We just folded the tents up with the sleeping bags in them and stuffed them in the canoes.

It was June so it started getting light before 4:00. We started paddling and found an empty campsite, made breakfast and re-packed the outfit. We were lucky not to have lost food or gear, or had a charging aggressive mamma bear. There were eight of us in four tents and each tent was assigned a 2 hour bear/fire watch because there obviously had been recent bear activity at the camp. It was a good call.
 
04/07/2021 12:25PM  
sedges: "If there is not a fire ban I would build a good fire."

This is a situation where I would ignore the ban. If you have decided that you have to stay and a burn ban is what's stopping you from ensuring your safety, then there is no doubt in my mind. People's lives come before obeying the law. You and the other group are together now, no one cares if you are over the limit of people or boats at the campsite either. As for the fire risk, just be safe with a bucket or pots of water standing by.
 
missmolly
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04/07/2021 12:49PM  
I change my mind. I'd do what sedges suggests.
 
Stumpy
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04/07/2021 04:56PM  
Again, I'm curious.... What lake ?
 
Canoearoo
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04/07/2021 05:28PM  
Stumpy: "Again, I'm curious.... What lake ? " I don't know, she said the Ely side.
 
Harv
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04/07/2021 08:25PM  
So what did your friends do?
 
JWilder
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04/07/2021 08:28PM  
Harv: "So what did your friends do?"

Wait for it... :)
 
sedges
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04/08/2021 12:51PM  
I would respect the burn ban. I would rather load up and float out on the lake in the dark. Accidently starting a wildfire puts lots of lives at risk, especially those tasked with containing it. I can easily avoid a bear risk by going off shore.
 
04/08/2021 01:11PM  
sedges: "I would respect the burn ban. I would rather load up and float out on the lake in the dark. Accidently starting a wildfire puts lots of lives at risk, especially those tasked with containing it. I can easily avoid a bear risk by going off shore."

I would not spend the night in the canoe. That seems too risky to me. If someone drifts off, you could capsize. If you try to lay out to sleep, you might drift into shore and be in reach of the bear. Depending on the temp you might have to deal with the cold. Flashlights are not going to last all night so paddling in circles to stay warm and awake could lead to hitting something and putting a hole in the boat.

If it is too risky to leave camp and move to a different lake in the dark (my first choice) then it is too risky to stay on the water all night long. A fire during a ban is the least dangerous choice. Obviously some sites might be more at risk to wildfire than others and that is something that would have to be judged in person, but if you are stuck there the immediate risk to the 2 groups is greater than the hypothetical risk of a wildfire.
 
Argo
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04/08/2021 01:19PM  
Agree with the earlier post that this is not normal bear behaviour. It was possessed by something. It even bit the bible! I'm still trying to determine if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Very strange that it would ransack all the gear instead of honing in on food or even humans as food.

How busy is this lake? Were there other campers on other sites? Alerting them would definitely have been an item on the list.
 
Canoearoo
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04/08/2021 01:36PM  
sedges: "I would respect the burn ban. I would rather load up and float out on the lake in the dark. Accidently starting a wildfire puts lots of lives at risk, especially those tasked with containing it. I can easily avoid a bear risk by going off shore."

She never mentioned a burn ban. She said the weather was perfect.
 
sedges
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04/08/2021 03:24PM  
In the situation I described with the mamma and 2 cubs the fire had zero impact on their behavior. They were in the camp 20 feet from the fire at one point. If the bear approaches you at the fire are you going to properly extinguish it before getting out of the way? That would be really important in extremely dry conditions.

Sleeping in the boats was never an issue. Adrenaline from the encounter has you thoroughly awake. We floated off shore and watched and listened to the mamma coax her cubs down out of the tree. Lots of cool bear vocalizations we had never heard before.
 
Canoearoo
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04/09/2021 09:51AM  
I like all your ideas. I'm not going to post what they did yet. But I'll post what I would have done.

She asked me what I would have done. I reminded her that I have lots of BWCA experience. I told her I'm not sure what I would have done. It's hard to know what action is right. Any action that keeps you alive in this situation is ok by me. But what I would have done on my first trip without any experience verse when she told me with lots of experience is completely different. Also we go to the BWCA with our kids but at the time she told me the story they were little. I told her I probably would have had us all have our bear spray (she didn't have this) out or have big sticks and started a fire and stayed guard all night. I always bring my CCS tarp but she didn't have this option. I would have used my CCS as a shelter. This bear was very human aggressive so I would also be packing up everything while we did this. We would have left at first light so in June that is maybe 4 am? We would have left the BWCA because without tents or sleeping bags you are risking your life especially if we had our kids with. I like that their were 4 adults instead of just 2 to fight off a bear if needed. I'm not as afraid of black bears compared to grizzly bears. We had one of those in camp once in the mountains and there is no scaring a grizzly bear. I think my grizzly bear experience gives me more confidence when dealing with black bears. But sometime confidence can by your worst enemy as well.
 
R1verrunner
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04/11/2021 06:08AM  
This bear obviously fell under MN nuisance law.

Appropriate action should have been taken.

Nuisance bear law
 
Canoearoo
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04/12/2021 10:13AM  
The rest of her story:

As they paddled up to their camp they saw their tent was gone. They land their canoes and walked up. Everything was destroyed. Their tent was in pieces and their sleeping bags were dragged all over camp ripped up. My friend looked down and found her bible she had in her tent was now by the fire pit. The picked it up and it had a several bites in it. They gather around the fire grate and discuses what to do. Before anyone could say anything they hear growing in the woods behind them. The couple they brought to camp announced they were leaving now and getting out of the BWCA. My friend and her husband agree that leaving was the thing to do. They see the bear on the edge of camp and abandon everything. They grab their bible, their life jackets their paddles and head to the canoes. As they push off they look back and the bear is back in camp. The weather is still warm, there isn't many clouds in the sky and it is a full moon. They then paddle, and portage until the sun rises. The get to their cars and then my friends head to a ranger station (I do not know what the other couple does at this point. I do know they made it out safe). They sit in the ranger station parking lot and wait till they open. They head in and tell them their entire story. The rangers call their outfitters and tell them the story. The outfitters was very understanding and didn't charge more than they normally do. My friend does apologize and gives them tip. Then the rangers send out a crew to the campsites. Upon arrive the rangers find an aggressive bear and shoot it. Their gear is gather up (I don't know if the rangers did this or the outfitters). Later tests determine there is something wrong with the bears brain (I don't remember what, but either way it was a younger sick bear). My friend never returns to the BWCA. Years later she shares her story and shows her bible to me. She said she will never head back, that canoe camping just isn't for her.
 
JWilder
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04/12/2021 11:04AM  
Canoearoo: "The rest of her story:


As they paddled up to their camp they saw their tent was gone. They land their canoes and walked up. Everything was destroyed. Their tent was in pieces and their sleeping bags were dragged all over camp ripped up. My friend looked down and found her bible she had in her tent was now by the fire pit. The picked it up and it had a several bites in it. They gather around the fire grate and discuses what to do. Before anyone could say anything they hear growing in the woods behind them. The couple they brought to camp announced they were leaving now and getting out of the BWCA. My friend and her husband agree that leaving was the thing to do. They see the bear on the edge of camp and abandon everything. They grab their bible, their life jackets their paddles and head to the canoes. As they push off they look back and the bear is back in camp. The weather is still warm, there isn't many clouds in the sky and it is a full moon. They then paddle, and portage until the sun rises. The get to their cars and then my friends head to a ranger station (I do not know what the other couple does at this point. I do know they made it out safe). They sit in the ranger station parking lot and wait till they open. They head in and tell them their entire story. The rangers call their outfitters and tell them the story. The outfitters was very understanding and didn't charge more than they normally do. My friend does apologize and gives them tip. Then the rangers send out a crew to the campsites. Upon arrive the rangers find an aggressive bear and shoot it. Their gear is gather up (I don't know if the rangers did this or the outfitters). Later tests determine there is something wrong with the bears brain (I don't remember what, but either way it was a younger sick bear). My friend never returns to the BWCA. Years later she shares her story and shows her bible to me. She said she will never head back, that canoe camping just isn't for her."


That is such a VERY rare experience! Even for lifetime trippers who go multiple times each year.

Too bad this has ruined any chances of another trip for them. At least no one was injured or killed.

JW
 
Canoearoo
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04/12/2021 11:08AM  
Yes she said no one was hurt at all. I told her it is very rare. I asked her if she had food in her tent and she said no. She brought up this story when I asked her if she wanted to go on a women's trip with me. She did not. Showed me her bible and I believe her. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt
 
trstuck
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04/12/2021 01:08PM  
As rookies under full-gear outfitting, I think what they did was a good choice - how would they know otherwise? Nearly all of us have experience and a frame of mind about wilderness camping. It was important that they recognized the danger and left.
It makes me sad to hear that she never would return. I have been on 34 trips since '98 and I have never seen a bear.
 
MikeinMpls
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04/12/2021 01:18PM  
trstuck: "As rookies under full-gear outfitting, I think what they did was a good choice - how would they know otherwise? Nearly all of us have experience and a frame of mind about wilderness camping. It was important that they recognized the danger and left.
It makes me sad to hear that she never would return. I have been on 34 trips since '98 and I have never seen a bear."


Isn't it weird how that works. I've been on 50+ trips and have seen bears on at least five occasions that I can remember, to include two in camp. The bears in camp scooted off quickly when the pots and pans started banging.

I've not seen a wolf while actually tripping, though I've seen them on the Echo trail a couple of times.

MT
 
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