Monday, September 27, 2010

The Bear Attack Decision Tree

Maybe you think the moment a bear begins to attack is the moment you have exhausted your very last options in this life. Well, dear reader, this precious, precious blog will thank you to leave the thinking to others. As this arresting image from Alaska attests, when a bear attacks -- I said when, not if -- you have the branches of a complex decision tree to navigate. Let's crawl our way through the available options:

  • "Don't run -- You can't outrun a bear." You can't, but I can -- I've finished several marathons, some of them without leg-cramping, and I have never seen a bear at the finish area of any of them, unless you mean the other kind of bear, in which case I have seen countless bears at the finish area. The point is, should you decide to outrun a bear, it will destroy you even more forcefully and painfully than it would have done without the aggravation of a foot chase. To run from a bear is to challenge it, to challenge a bear is to taunt it, and to taunt a bear is to anger it. Now, aren't you glad you read this? And I've only just started.
  • "Let the bear know you're human." Sure, why not? Share with it some of the information stored on the Voyager probe's golden record -- common greetings in Hindi, Persian, Dutch, English and other languages; music by Chuck Berry, Mozart, and the Georgian folk tradition; audio of the brain waves of Ann Druyan; assorted photographs of people going about their business, flashing their genitals, and so on. Better yet, don't venture outdoors without an exact copy of the golden record, which was, after all, designed to give non-human species a brief overview of who we are, what we are about, and why we should not be eaten. Why reinvent the wheel? Carl Sagan already did the work.
  • "If Attacked ..." Here the sign suggests surrendering to the bear in hopes it will find you boring, and to monitor for indications that the bear has gone past inflicting flesh wounds and has proceeded to the outright taking of bites. As sensible as this advice seems on the surface, I have to wonder if the mauling-predation line is so clear and bright from the perspective of the non-bear in the scenario. Granted, if the golden record has helped establish a basic rapport, you can ask the bear what its ultimate intentions are, but this strikes me as a longshot -- would you be favorably inclined to someone who just played you an hour of Ann Druyan's brain waves? No. No, you wouldn't. The better bet is to assume the bear is, by now, feeling agitated, taunted, and hungry.
Whether the above applies to the other kind of bear is a matter too delicate and provocative for the annals of this precious, precious blog.

UPDATE: one of my both readers, Sis B, alerted me to a significant news item in this fast-moving story of how humans can survive bear encounters:
[A Montana woman] was stirred after midnight by a tussle in the backyard of her home ... She went to investigate and found a 200-pound black bear attacking one of her two dogs, a 12-year-old collie. ... She told police the bear then charged her ... The bear took a swipe at her with its paw and tore her jeans. The woman jumped back and grasped the nearest object on her kitchen counter inside the doorway -- a 12-inch-long zucchini she had harvested earlier from her garden.

She flung the zucchini at the bear from a distance she estimated to be 3 feet. The vegetable bopped the bruin on the top of its head and the animal fled, Maricelli said.
It's an amazing story -- someone actually found a way to make use of zucchini? Lest the bears win, decency and public safety demand that the signage in Alaska be updated to reflect this news.


Megan (Sis B) said...

Since the instructions don't reference zucchini, I think they are bunk anyway.

Dale said...

Megan, THANK YOU for alerting me to this important development.

Sheldon said...

•"Don't run -- You can't outrun a bear." You can't, but I can -- "

Having spent some time in Alaska way back when, I was instructed that sure, you can run, just be sure you can run faster than your partner. If I was out with you, I guess I would be dinner.

Hey, by the way, at home while using google chrome I was warned to turn back from your precious precious blog, and it said your site may have malware or something.
Not getting that message at work with explorer

Laura said...

I usually make a delicious zucchini soup with mine, but I'll consider using them as a defense against bears. Will yellow squash work as well?

Dale said...

@Laura, you have a point -- zucchini can add something positive to soups and the like. Squash against bears? I would think so. My understanding is that bears are naturally afraid of squash, but I might have squash confused with larger bears.

@Sheldon, the key to outrunning a bear is to make it a human-favoring sort of footrace. Yea, granted, if it's a sprint, the bear is going to win, but we can whoop them in the distance events. That's where the golden record-rapport is so necessary -- establish a basic relationship, then work out the kind of race.

Domestically Challenged said...

I was about to tell you the same thing about the Google Chrome, Malware issue. I haven't been able to visit for a couple weeks because of it. Finally switched to FF this evening and it's not a problem.

I know you're malicious in all the right ways.

Dale said...

Weeeerd. I have not been able to recreate the problem with chrome -- maybe I dismissed it in the super magical way somewhere back in time, and made it stop.

I promise I'm not doing anything interestingly malicious. I think maybe it's the "external" script that shows recent comments on the sidebar, but that's only a guess.

I'll check into it a little more.

Dale said...

Hmmmmm. The mystery deepens -- I brought up this precious, precious blog on Chrome using another PC, and it didn't give me any trouble / terrorism alerts. I even browsed around a lot to try to scare it.